Listen Dear has the final say but a few scares along the way
Just one to beat. Willie Mullins' only runner on the card. Ruby Walsh on board. Unbeaten in more than a year. A winner of her sole start over fences by 20 lengths. The bookies made her a 1-12 favourite. What could possibly go wrong?
Listen Dear did manage to make it two from two over fences in the two-runner 2m2f mares' chase, but those who tried to buy money were made to sweat as she made a mess of the sixth fence and took off early four out and again three out.
She survived those scares but then had to fend off the persistent challenge of Thanks For Tea, who got within half a length of the winner at the line.
Walsh believes she will be better when going a stride quicker back over two miles.
He said: "She had been a bit brave in her early schooling but was good at Ballinrobe. Today she was a bit brave across the top and got low at the second-last the first time around.
"She's done the job and I'm sure she'll step up in grade now. If you dropped her back to two miles you could go faster and make more use of her. She's probably a better filly to let roll."
Elliott at the double
Gordon Elliott continues to set a scorching pace at the top of the trainers' championship and the victories of Dounikos and Hardline, both in the Gigginstown House Stud colours, provided him with an 11-2 double.
Downpatrick bumper winner Dounikos might not have won the 2m7f maiden hurdle by far, but he never looked in any danger under Walsh, and Elliott confirmed afterwards that he was just idling in front.
He said: "He's a big honest galloping horse and it wasn't the strongest race in the world, but he did what he had to do. Ruby said he was very idle but he won and has done his job and we'll try to find another small race somewhere."
Pet teaches a lesson
Teacher's Pet has now won three of her last four starts for Philip and Luke Dempsey. She scooted away from her rivals after the second-last to land the 2m4f mares' handicap hurdle by five and a half lengths.
Trainer Philip Dempsey said: "She jumped well and did everything well. She loves that ground and we're probably lucky with the dry start we've had this winter.
"I'd imagine she might have a break, as she wouldn't like heavy ground. She'll make a nice chaser in time."
There was a sad postscript to the race as the well-bred Diamond Dame, a four-time winner, received a kick at the start, took no part and was subsequently put down.
Thought for the day
There were just two runners in the opening 2m2f mares' chase and, if the rain stay away, small fields like that could become the norm over the next week or two.