Approach just right for MCR
There were doubles for Noel Meade and Dessie Hughes, an Irish Derby participant winning over hurdles and another impressive Dermot Weld bumper winner at Leopardstown yesterday but it was the win of Final Approach in the feature MCR Hurdle that sparked major celebrations.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins, who at the weekend overtook Gordon Elliott at the head of the trainers' championship for the first time since the summer, avenged his second, third and fourth in the 2010 race with a first and second in this year's renewal as Final Approach led home stable companion Call The Police.
Paul Townend and Final Approach were carrying the colours of Dougie Taylor, CEO of MCR Recruitment, and the sponsor saw his investment returned as the five-year-old, whom he bred himself, hit the front approaching the last to run out a two-length winner.
It was a typically daring ride from Townend in the competitive 26-runner handicap and Final Approach stayed on bravely to secure a second win over hurdles on his sixth start.
Mullins admitted afterwards: "I thought he got to the front a little soon on him, as on the Flat he may not have seen it out, but he gave him a great ride and went down the inner and the gaps came, which was very important.
"I just said to Dougie a while back that his own race may just fall at the right time for him so we aimed him for that and today was probably his Derby as he is a small horse."
Leading RSA Chase candidate Jessies Dream was eased in the betting for the Cheltenham contest after being overturned by Magnanimity.
The Dessie Hughes-trained six-year-old was second favourite in the three-runner field and, despite clearly not fully enjoying himself making the running, he was given a mind-making ride by Davy Russell and battled on well after the last to score by three parts of a length from the odds-on favourite.
Magnanimity was the opening leg of a Dessie Hughes brace. The Hughes double was completed in fine style by Rare Bob, who never saw another rival when making all the running in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase.
The former Grade One winner was bounced out by Paddy Flood and having seen his advantage reduced at the second last, the nine-year-old still ran out a two-length victor.
Of the first time blinkered winner Hughes said: "He was just loitering in the past. Nobody wanted to go on and Rare Bob won from the front before Paddy made the running and it's nice to win over this trip (2m5f) as he is a three-miler. He will probably be entered in the Ryanair and could be entered in the National."
Noel Meade was out of luck with MCR Hurdle favourite Prima Vista but still enjoyed a double as Rahan De Marcigny opened his account over fences before Across The Bay caused a bit of an upset in the Pertemps Qualifier.
The opening maiden hurdle went to Jessica Harrington's The Bull Hayes who sluiced up to win by 12 lengths.
The concluding bumper went to the Dermot Weld-trained, Kris Weld-owned and Robbie McNamara-ridden newcomer Waaheb, who was a facile winner but unlikely to contest the big Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.