Realt on course for Arkle assault -- Meade
Realt Dubh has fully justified Noel Meade's decision to drop him back to 2m1f by now claiming two consecutive Grade Ones and he has now earned himself a tilt at the Arkle at Cheltenham after yesterday taking the Irish version at Leopardstown.
The seven-year-old was helped at Christmas when Saludos exited at the last and for some reason the latter failed to shine yesterday, while also yesterday afternoon the well fancied Flat Out was a faller at the second last for Willie Mullins.
It was Noble Prince that put Realt Dubh to the test and the eventual winner responded gamely to hold Paul Nolan's charge and Meade was delighted afterwards.
"He actually worked better going into today than he did before Christmas," the Meath trainer admitted.
"I was very happy coming here so hopefully we keep him right and he has won two Grade Ones so he is well fit to take his chance (at Cheltenham) and if he doesn't win it's not the end of the world.
"He stays a shade further than two miles so that is a help."
One horse that wouldn't be as certain to head to Prestbury Park in March is Shark Hanlon's Hidden Cyclone despite victory in the Grade Two Novices Hurdle on yesterdays card.
Bouncing back to winning ways after the only defeat of his five race career, Hidden Cyclone was a snug winner when justifying favouritism yesterday but Hanlon was keen he didn't make the trip across in less than eight weeks time.
He said: "If I had my way he wouldn't go to Cheltenham as he prefers a but of a cut in the ground.
"But I will talk to the owners and hopefully we will get one more win out of him this season.
"He will make a smashing chaser next season and he can jump fences."
The Carlow handler competed a double in the last race as Mart Lane won the concluding bumper and Hanlon admitted: "I thought he'd be more impressive and I thought he was a Cheltenham horse but I'm not so sure now. I will talk to Barry (Connell -- owner) and we will decide then."
The opening maiden hurdle was won by Day Of A Limetime instigating a Willie Mullins and Paul Townend brace and also booking his place at Cheltenham in the process.