Mullins' Meri on Cheltenham trail
Meri Devie booked her Cheltenham ticket when bouncing back to form to claim top honours in the Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday.
A smart juvenile last term, Willie Mullins' five-year-old has been a bit inconsistent this campaign and was behind the reopposing Alletrix when Jessica Harrington's charge won a handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Meri Devie was a massive 21lb better off in this Listed contest, so it was no surprise that she was sent off the 5-4 favourite, and she moved ahead of long-time leader Alighting at the fourth-last.
She was headed by Alletrix two out, but it was only briefly, with David Mullins asking the question shortly after, and she shot away again to pass the post five lengths to the good.
Mullins said: "I thought she was well-in there and she jumped well. She got a nice lead the whole way and when push came to shove she produced the little bit of class that we think she might have.
"We're very happy with that and can look forward to bringing her over (to Cheltenham) for the Mares' Hurdle. Two and a half miles is no problem to her, and as the season goes on she can go up in trip."
Mullins had earlier struck with another mare when Cut The Mustard took the INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.
He said of the 3-1 chance: "The extra half-mile made a difference and it was an improved round of jumping, although her jumping is still not right.
"She's a nice improving mare who will be staying at home and could go to Fairyhouse."
Mullins made it an 18-1 treble when Redhotfillypeppers justified its 11-10 favouritism in the Festival Any Day Flexi Ticket Mares Maiden Hurdle.
He said: "The extra trip suited her, she jumped well and stayed on really well.
"She'll probably go now for the Shannon Spray Mares Hurdle over this trip at Limerick (March 18)."
Kilfenora successfully reverted to timber in the Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle Qualifier.
The Eddie Harty-trained six-year-old has not managed to get his head in front in good company over fences, and he arrived in search of a confidence boost after pulling up in a competitive handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival.
He travelled strongly into contention after three out under Mark Walsh, only to find favourite Call The Taxie a really tough nut to crack.
They took the last as one, and neither gave an inch in the testing conditions, but Kilfenora (12-1) pulled out that little bit extra to prevail by half a length.
Delta Work and the winner's stablemate Sort It Out dead-heated for third place.