THE exciting Energumene, with Sean O’Keeffe in the saddle, continued Willie Mullins’s domination of Cork’s Grade 2 Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase when keeping his unbeaten record over jumps intact with an effortless display which saw his odds for next year’s Champion Chase trimmed from 7/2 into 3/1 by Paddy Power. Stable-mate Chacun Pour Soi has been pushed out to 10/1.
Energumene won two Grade 1 chases last season, but missed out on the Cheltenham Festival in March due to a muscle injury.
He could not be faulted here on his first start in open company and was a joy to watch in defying top-weight by a comfortable eight and a half lengths from the 157-rated Daly Tiger who was in receipt of 8lb.
Up front from the start, Energumene was joined at times by Notebook, but shook him off at the third last. Mullins was at Punchestown where Allaho took the honours in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase, but his assistant David Casey was buzzing.
He said “Sean said they went very quick early on and he was happy when he went to the front, but Notebook took him on down the back straight and they ended up racing. Other than that, he’d have been very impressive and his class told in the home straight.
“He was giving away a penalty today and Sean, who comes in to us a few times a week, riding out and schooling, thinks he’ll improve loads.” Wexford-born O’Keeffe was completing a notable treble for the champion trainer, having taken the Grade 2 O’Flynn Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase with Concertista and the second division of the maiden hurdle with Dysart Dynamo. Concertista was equally impressive in her event when justifying favouritism by half a length from Jeremys Flame and she, too, is expected to improve considerably from the run.
Casey said “She’s quick at her fences, but not an exuberant jumper and Sean was confident the whole way that, if she kept her jumping together, she’d win.
"Hopefully she will progress through the year and we’ll keep an eye on those mares races for the time being and see what’s there for her.”
Smart bumper horse Kilcruit, who got turned over by Largy Debut, from the Henry de Bromhead stable when sent off the long odds-on favourite to make a successful jumping debut in the first leg of the maiden hurdle, was the only blip on the card for Mullins and O’Keeffe.
Casey commented “Sean said he didn’t travel through the race and was beaten early. He said he jumped well, but then was flat at the third last and that’s why he was missing them. We have no excuses other than that at the moment.
The Grade 3 Singleton's SuperValu Stayers Novice Hurdle produced a popular local result, being won as it was by Nell’s Well from Sean O’Brien’s Kilworth yard.
Owned by Pat Casey, the 25/1 shot had eight lengths to spare over Dedanann in crediting Mark McDonagh with his first Graded success.
Her trainer pointed out “Nearly every year there’s a small entry for this race and black type is what it’s all about.
"She always wanted a trip, but the programme of races that are there between now and next January forced us to come here. It was either that or go to Punchestown for a handicap.
“Her jumping was unbelievable and, with three miles on soft ground, you’d be hoping one or two don’t step up to the mark and that’s what happened.
"The race fell apart and she just kept galloping. Mark couldn’t claim his 7lb off her today, but the owner wanted him to ride her because her knows her so well and I thought he gave her a peach of a ride.”
Gordon Elliott is ‘on fire’ at the moment and picked up where he left off at Navan 24 hours earlier with a narrow success for market leader Iberique Du Seuil under Youghal native Denis O’Regan in the 3-Y-0 maiden hurdle.
The odds-on winner recovered from a mistake at the final flight to score and his jockey reported: “He battled back well and stayed at it to get the job done.”