Open Eagle takes flight at Fairyhouse for Willie Mullins
Last year's facile November Handicap winner Open Eagle opened his account over hurdles with a smart display at Fairyhouse.
The six-year-old was a 12-length winner of the traditional end-of-season Flat highlight at Doncaster last year when trained by David O'Meara, but made an inauspicious start to his jumping career with Willie Mullins when beaten into third as an odds-on favourite at Punchestown in February.
Sent off the 5-4 favourite for his seasonal reappearance in the Christmas Parties At Fairyhouse December 19th Maiden Hurdle, Open Eagle was never too far off the pace and, in the main, his jumping was assured in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
He loomed ominously alongside point-to-point winner Double Island on the run to the final flight and was coaxed home to score by two and a quarter lengths.
Mullins said: "It was a good performance in very testing conditions and we'll look for a novice race for him now.
"He was in front long enough and didn't do a lot in front. We changed tactics and he jumped better.
"I wouldn't say he's a bad jumper. We have only schooled him a few times but we held onto him too much on his first hurdle run."
Mullins and Walsh swiftly doubled up as Up For Review (2-1) sauntered clear in the Fairyhouse Membership 2016 Now Available Maiden Hurdle.
A point-to-point winner and a runaway victor on his bumper debut at Leopardstown in December, the six-year-old failed to make an impact in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March and was no match for stable companion Yorkhill at Punchestown.
He looks a high-class recruit to the jumping game judged by this display, however, comfortably pulling eight lengths clear of 13-8 favourite Space Cadet without being extended.
Space Cadet was partnered by Davy Russell, who was having first ride since he suffered a broken arm and broken foot in a fall at Cork on August 30.
"That was a nice performance. He gallops and jumps and is crying out for a fence," said Mullins.
"He'll stick to novice hurdling this year. He's an out-and-out stayer and hopefully one of our better staying novices. He's by Presenting so he should handle better ground, but he handles that ground well."