Short thrilled as Hill lands a Royal success
Newry trainer Liam Lennon - who landed the Cheltenham Foxhunters in 2014 with Tammy's Hill - sent Benarty Hill out to win the Down Royal Chase and he did just that.
The local runner, with Adam Short aboard, relished the very testing conditions. Six horses held claims at the penultimate fence but, as favourite Goldmineinthesky wandered about going to the last, Benarty Hill shot clear after the last for victory.
Short said: "I got a lovely run round. I thought he had a squeak - I couldn't believe how much he had improved since Tramore. I thought the big galloping track would suit him. Liam's a great supporter - he's a real gent."
Blue Empyrean, partnered by Andrew Ring, beat Ardmillan to supply a 1-2 for locals in the Robert McCoubrey Chase.
The winner, trained at Armagh by Keith Watson, was recording back-to-back victories despite drifting from 2/1 to 11/2 following victory at Naas last time.
Ring said: "I sat on him at the Curragh last Sunday and he had improved. He's better over fences and goes on the ground. He'll improve again. He pricked his ears after the last - he's a grand horse."
Marshall Watson, son of the winning trainer, added: "He's going the right way and hopefully he'll keep progressing. He handled the ground and we might step up in trip at some stage. He still has a nice handicap mark over hurdles. We might go back to Naas - we'll see how he is."
A hat-trick for local connections was completed when Our Boy Boru overhauled Swift after the final flight in the handicap hurdle. Our Boy Boru, trained by Armagh-based John Woods, prevailed despite blundering at the last. Winning jockey Robbie Colgan said: "He's really tough and stayed galloping. He missed the last - I thought I had no chance but he kept grinding it out. It's really hard work on the ground."
The Tom Taaffe-trained Goose Man, with Andrew Lynch aboard, was handy prior to winning the opener despite a mistake at the penultimate fence.
Taaffe said: "He picked up after the last having guessed at the second last. He will get an entry at the Cheltenham Festival (in the Jewson Novice Chase). Better ground will suit him - he's going the right way."
Lynch doubled up when scoring on the Henry de Bromhead-trained Celtic Rising.
Lynch said: "He's improving with each run - he will be better again when he jumps fences. He loves the ground."
The Gordon Elliott-trained Gun Digger won the novice hurdle in style.
Gun Digger, with Jack Kennedy in the saddle, was always prominent prior to pushing on in the closing stages for an emphatic success.
Kennedy said: "He was good and loved the going. He's very slick over a hurdle."
Trainer Elliott added: "He's a big chaser for next year. That will give him confidence and we'll find another small race later - it's all about next year."
Well Set Up sprang a 20/1 surprise in the finale for trainer Mark Fahey and rider Richie Deegan.