Steel shows his true mettle
Real Steel could have booked his ticket to the Galway Plate after landing the feature Panoramic Restaurant Handicap Chase at Punchestown in a thrilling finish.
Mouse Morris's seven-year-old (11-4 favourite) was always at the front in the two-mile contest, in company with Foildubh, and the pair were still there as the race built to a climax.
They were joined by Mister Hotelier at that stage and the latter looked poised to strike as Real Steel's fencing lost its fluency, and he put in a particularly bad jump at the final obstacle.
But David Mullins soon had him driving forward again and he beat Foildubh by half a length, with Mister Hotelier a further nose away in third place.
Morris said: "He did well as he did everything bar fall at the last. He stuck on well.
"I don't know where we'll go but he probably wants a little bit further. For his first handicap it wasn't a bad performance. They went a fair gallop. I'd give my right arm to win a Plate! I'll have a few for it hopefully and he'll certainly be on the list."
There was another success for the Gigginstown House Stud team when The Game Changer, making his debut over the larger obstacles, put in a fine front-running performance to take the Event Centre Beginners Chase.
Gordon Elliott's 6-4 favourite responded well to the enterprising tactics adopted by Davy Russell, back in the familiar silks, as he jumped fluently in the main, while Daneking made several errors and was well beaten, trailing in 13 lengths behind.
The winning trainer said: "It was a good old performance. We changed the tactics on him today and he jumped very well.
"Originally the plan was to come here and then have a bit of a break before the Galway Hurdle, but on that performance we'll keep going chasing during the summer. We said we'd try something different on him today and thankfully it worked."
Willie Mullins' ex-French filly Limini (5-4 favourite) made a successful Irish debut in the Kildare Hunt Club Maiden Hurdle, easing to victory by half a length under a confident Paul Townend after a slow jump at the last gave supporters a scare.
The jockey said: "She has a fair engine. She's improved every day she's jumped a hurdle and that was a big learning curve again too.
"There was no hiding place today as they went a good gallop from the off. She was very careful and had a good look at the last, but I liked the way she knuckled down after the last. She has a good engine and the jumping will come, it's just practice."
Noel Meade's 3-1 favourite Champoleon could hardly have been more impressive as he returned from a lay-off to take the Punchestown For Events Maiden Hurdle, cruising ahead going to the last under Paul Carberry and scoring by four and a half lengths.
The jockey said: "He had a couple of quick runs at the start of last season and sort of went backwards. Noel backed off him and he's come back to himself in the last month. I rode him a few bits of work recently and he's turned into a nice horse"
Na Trachtalai Abu looked to have a bit to do going to the last in the punchestown.com Handicap Hurdle but James Motherway's 10-1 chance stayed on stoutly and forged a length and a quarter clear on the run-in in the hands of Mark Walsh.
Mikey Fogarty gave the Mary Louise Hallahan-trained Fr Humphrey a positive ride in the Go Racing In Kildare Handicap Chase and the post came just in time for the 16-1 shot, who held on by a head as As De Pique closed rapidly.