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Monksland creates big impression

Noel Meade's Monksland booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival with an eyecatching victory in the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas.

Paul Carberry was keen to bide his time on the 6-1 chance, who was completing a hat-trick, and could be spotted still travelling strongly as the field prepared to round the turn for home in the Grade Two contest.

Hot favourite Dedigout took over the lead at the top of the straight, but he had no answer when Monksland cruised by and Carberry was able to ease down after the final flight to score by four and a half lengths.

Meade said: "That went exactly to plan. I thought he'd win, to be honest, as he is very good. He was involved in a serious piece of work at Fairyhouse where he finished second to Bog Warrior, and I think he had a bit up his sleeve.

"He has done everything right since and jumps well. He is good enough for Cheltenham and he will go there for the Neptune. I'm not sure whether he will run before that as he is easy to get fit.

"He worked well on Tuesday morning on soft ground and should handle better ground. He had earplugs in as he used to be very nervous, but he has relaxed and never turned a hair today."

Stan James gave Monksland a quote of 20-1 for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Hats And Heels fairly bolted up on her first appearance over obstacles in the Annual Membership At Naas Maiden Hurdle. Willie Mullins' mare was sent off the 5-6 favourite and the result was scarcely in doubt, Ruby Walsh easing her into contention before pulling clear for a five-length verdict.

The trainer said: "She's exciting for her size. She ran around a bit at the second-last but apart from that, she did everything right. I might keep her to mares' races, but then again she could run in open novices and make use of her mares' allowance, which will be a help to her, given her size."

Mullins went on to record a double as 2-7 favourite Un Atout routed the opposition in the closing bumper, earning a 16-1 quote from Paddy Power for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

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