Festival hope for Bishops after Clonmel win
Bishopsfurze survived poor jumps at the final two flights to hold his stablemate Skorcher in the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle at Clonmel.
The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old (9-10 favourite) was always travelling easily for Paul Townend and cruised into the lead at the fourth-last.
The race looked over bar the shouting until he gave his rivals some hope when blundering the penultimate obstacle, but he could even afford the luxury of flattening the last as he outclassed the opposition.
Despite those errors through lack of concentration, he hosed up by seven lengths to earn consideration for the Cheltenham Festival where he holds entries in three novice hurdles.
Mullins said: "I thought he was gone at the second-last and he was lucky to stand up.
"Paul said he was idling in front. He said he travelled so well he had to go to the front.
"He showed today that he has a real engine.
"I was also delighted with the other horse (Skorcher) and he'll go for something similar with him."
Mullins completed a big-race double when Dooneys Gate was a convincing winner in the Kilcash Chase.
The trainer's son, Patrick Mullins, made his challenge at the third-last and nothing could live with the 10-year-old in the closing stages as the 2-1 favourite strolled to victory by 13 lengths from Northern Alliance.
"He ran well last time and jumped great. I was just a bit worried about the ground being a bit dead for him today," said Mullins snr.
"He's in the Grand National but could run in the Topham instead. He would be a nice spin for Patrick over those fences."
Earlier on the card, Magen's Star (15-8 favourite) confirmed her Cheltenham credentials when bolting up by 15 lengths in the Kilsheelan Mares Novice Hurdle to retain her unbeaten record over timber.
Tommy Stack's charge was cut to 40-1 from 66-1 with the sponsors for the Stan James Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
"She loves that ground and can't get it soft enough, so plans are ground dependent," said Stack.
"She hadn't run in 90 days as she had an infection in a joint and it blew up a bit.
"The rest may have done her good."