Minsk skips to success
Minsk could yet prove a smart recruit off the Flat and he won with some authority in the www.punchestown.com Maiden Hurdle.
Big things were expected of the former Irish Cesarewitch winner when he joined Dessie Hughes from John Oxx last season, but a solitary start over timber could only yield a second. He went back to Oxx for another campaign on the level, twice placing in Listed contests, and has now rejoined Hughes.
Taking it up a fair way out under Bryan Cooper, the 4-9 favourite only had the previously unbeaten Glens Melody as anything like a danger rounding the home turn. The latter never looked like posing a serious threat, however, and Minsk eased home unpressed by eight and a half lengths.
Cooper, who had teamed up with Hughes to score with El Fontan, said: "I was very impressed and he jumped from hurdle to hurdle and he quickened going to the last.
"It's nice to get that out of the way and he's certainly one to look forward to. He gave me a totally different feel compared to his last hurdle run at Fairyhouse. He was keen from the start and that's why I went on down the back straight."
A dramatic race over the banks course saw Nina Carberry come out on top aboard Arabella Boy for race specialist Enda Bolger.
It was a battle from the last with fellow 3-1 joint-favourite Bostons Angel, and three-parts of a length separated them at the line. But that was not the whole story of the race, as Lord Nellerie was disqualified after taking the wrong course, where a number of runners followed him.
Bolger said: "This horse has been so frustrating but Nina's always had faith in him. We'll stick at this game now. We've been so lucky over the years in cross-country races - we've had so many good horses.
"This fellow seems to have been around for a long time but he's still only seven.
"Hopefully he'll go to Cheltenham now in December and he'll be back here in February, then the Cheltenham Festival and then the La Touche."