Ruby hails his sweet success on Melon
The Willie Mullins-trained Melon, the odds on favourite, duly obliged in the Grade Two feature WKD Hurdle on day one of the Down Royal Festival.
Stable companion Coquin Mans made much of the running in the £50,000 showdown until Ruby Walsh eased the favourite into the lead at the last where the youngster stumbled on landing, his stable mate making a mistake too.
Walsh said: "He was a big, raw horse last year and he did exceptionally well to do what he did.
"He has strengthened up considerably - he's a bigger, stronger horse.
"It was a good performance to beat race-fit horses Coquin Mans and Wakea."
Mullins is in Australia overseeing his trio of Melbourne Cup runners so missed his 1-2 in the feature.
Mullins and Walsh were gaining compensation after favourite Mystic Theatre crashed out at the penultimate flight in the preceding mares novice hurdle having made all the running, allowing the John Kiely-trained Just Janice to triumph.
Just Janice - with Davy Russell in the saddle - had run in last for most of the race but came through to lead at the last and sprinted clear.
Russell said: "The Flynns (owners) are sporting people. I remember mitching school to watch the horse's grandmother win a Stayers' Hurdle!
"This is great to repay them with a success like this because it is so valuable for the filly and for the pedigree so it's a great day all round.
"John (Kiely) had given me the go ahead to do what I wanted so I took a chance and it worked out."
Gordon Elliott - over at the Breeders' Cup meeting in America - registered a treble.
Poli Roi claimed the opener in the style of a very good horse and Davy Condon - assistant to the trainer - said: "He jumped those (traditional) hurdles a lot better than the hurdles the last day.
"He'll be a lovely staying horse over hurdles but his future is obviously over fences as he's a big horse."
Tombstone, with Jack Kennedy aboard, landed the beginners chase. The locally-trained Gilt Shadow had just edged ahead going to the last fence only to sadly suffer a fatal fall.
Kennedy said: "I nearly fell off at the second last. I had him covered (Gilt Shadow) at the final fence."
Elliott's hat-trick was completed when Felix Desjy, with Patrick Mullins aboard, landed the concluding bumper and looks another future star having rallied bravely when headed by Cask Mate in the concluding stages.
Crazywork De Vassy got the better of the locally-trained The Shepherd King in the handicap chase, the latter finishing runner up in the race for the second successive year.
Alaliya sprang a 16/1 surprise in the Allianz Hurdle, beating Pack Your Bags which had been the first reserve in the race.