Zabana shines over fences at Leopardstown
Zabana made a seamless transition to fences for trainer Andrew Lynch to win the Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase at Leopardstown.
A smart hurdler, the six-year-old was touched off in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham before finishing third at Punchestown in Grade One Company. Expected to need his first outing since then, the 4-1 shot jumped with aplomb under Davy Russell to win by a length and three-quarters from Blair Perrone.
"I was afraid of the ground but he was fit and well. He is going to come on from that. Davy gave him a great ride and took his time. He jumped great for first time out. We think an awful lot of him. He doesn't show much at home but when we take him to the track he's brilliant. I've no plans yet but he could step up in trip," said Lynch.
Forever Gold showed more appetite for the battle than Russian Bill to come out on top in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
The 16-1 chance kept to the rail under Chris Timmons but eventual runner-up Russian Bill breezed up alongside. However, Eddie Cawley's Forever Gold stuck to his task resolutely to win by a length and a half, with Woodford Island third and Mall Dini fourth.
It was a second winner of the meeting for Timmons, who said: "It's been a good Christmas. To be fair, Eddie was very keen on him as he had no weight on his back and all he does is stay. I was trying to save a bit as I knew he'd keep galloping."
Cawley said: "He had a great weight and got a great ride from Chris. Staying won it for him. We thought all along he could win a half-decent race and he's been knocking on the door.
"I'll probably go back chasing with him. I had picked out the Grand National trial at Punchestown at the end of January. He's not a good traveller so, for that reason, we'll avoid going over the water. He's probably not high enough to get into Irish National but I see him going for it some day."
Chain Gang stayed on dourly to win the At The Races Maiden Hurdle. For a long way it seemed as though odds-on favourite Road To Respect was going to collect as Bryan Cooper sent him into a big lead but he found little and when Minella Aris seemed sure to give Aidan O'Brien his second winner of the meeting, Alan Fleming's Chain Gang managed to quicken up in the heavy ground for Adrian Heskin to win by a head at 6-1.
"We're very happy. He's extremely tough. I'd say going up in trip would be no problem and even back in trip a little," said Fleming.
"He's a lovely horse and bred to be very good over hurdles. Hopefully it's onwards and upwards from here and he might appreciate a bit better ground. We're absolutely chuffed as I'd say it was a decent maiden hurdle."
Barry Geraghty gave Whatsforuwontgobyu (9-2) a patient ride to deliver Tony Martin's charge late in the Irish Daily Star Christmas Novice Handicap Hurdle, while the Midland Legal Solicitors Flat Race went the way of the well-backed Gurteen (9-4) for Robert Tyner.