Stand Up And Fight has a bright future after Down Royal joy: O'Connor
The JP McManus-owned Stand Up And Fight delivered a very impressive display to land the hunterchase at Down Royal and endorse his claims as a major contender for the Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival.
Winning trainer Enda Bolger has previously used the race as a launch pad for On The Fringe, as well as Gilgamboa - who is the current Foxhunters favourite - last year.
Stand Up And Fight, with multiple All-Ireland champion rider Derek O'Connor aboard, gave a bold front-running display, jumping superbly despite always having eventual runner-up Sizing Coal in the shadows.
Stand Up And Fight was immediately cut from 25s to 12/1 for the amateur feature on Gold Cup day.
"He was deadly," praised jockey O'Connor. "He's a very nice horse. He had good form over hurdles and they have chosen to go this hunterchase route.
"I'd say he could be a little bit special."
Armagh trainer Keith Watson supplied a local success when British Art prevailed in the handicap hurdle.
Several held claims at the final flight but the Armagh horse kept on best in the closing stages to come out on top.
The race supplied an all-local finish as well, with Bracka Lily second and Back To Batan filling third.
Trainer Watson commented: "The boys (Cousins Plus One Syndicate) are local up in Portrush and own an ice-cream factory. They all wanted to come racing to Down Royal on Boxing Day and I said let him take his chance.
"I said if he ran like he did in Clonmel he would be there or thereabouts."
The stewards held an enquiry into possible interference in the closing stages but allowed the result to stand, while cautioning winning rider Barry Browne to ride with more care in future following the incident.
Leading trainer Noel Meade and stable jockey Sean Flanagan struck early when winning the first race with Getaway Kid.
The winner travelled ominously well three from home prior to asserting at the penultimate fence and scoring easily.
The Navan trainer said: "He has been super schooling - we haven't schooled a horse with as much scope as him for a long time.
"It just gave him another little bit of a gear which he maybe didn't have over hurdles."
Ger Fox gave the Gavin Cromwell-trained Allduckornodinner an enterprising ride to claim the handicap chase when making all to prevail.
The challengers lined up in opposition, but Cromwell's winner pulled out more from the tank when asked on the run to the line to score.
"He gave an exhibition out in front, he was brilliant over fences and has loads of scope," said jockey Fox.
"I dropped him in the last day in a maiden hurdle and he just levelled out so today we said we would just let him bowl along."
Trainer Henry de Bromhead added to his tally of success at the course when Sinoria proved the facile winner of the maiden hurdle when leading on the downhill run and, once over the last, cantered to victory with Dylan Robinson aboard.
De Bromhead was doubly represented in the Red Mills Hurdle but, after his Generalisation had made most of the running, it was Presented Well, partnered by Robinson, which came through in the closing stages to land the prize, with Pilot Station running on late to snatch second.
Robinson said: "He did it well in fairness, he was just doing enough towards the line. He travelled everywhere and I was happy with him.
"He had a little bit left, if (runner-up Pilot Station) came to him he was going to go on again. It was never in doubt!
"It's great to get a double. Getting rides is hard but today was a good opportunity to get a couple of rides and it paid off."
The well-supported Shaws Bridge flattered to deceive when looking the likely winner of the bumper from some way out, only to finish third.
Instead it was Valdieu, with Banbridge rider Mark O'Hare in the saddle, who kept on gamely to score, providing trainer Noel Meade with a first and last race double.