The feature Hatton’s Grace Hurdle was won by a short-head by Apple’s Jade (unchanged on 153) who gained compensation for last weekend's narrow reverse in the Fighting Fifth, adding a third win at the highest level to those achieved at Aintree and Punchestown last spring. She will reportedly have just one more race before returning to the Cheltenham Festival in March for the Mares’ Hurdle, where she'll bid to end the stranglehold her former handler Willie Mullins has in that event and go one better than in last season's Triumph Hurdle. The returning 7/4-on favourite Vroum Vroum Mag (up 1 lb but loses 'p' on 156) saw her 10-race winning sequence come to an end, but there was no disgrace in going down to a similarly smart and race-fit rival, and she'll continue to prove hard to beat at this level. Her stablemate Shaneshill (158) stepped up on last month's Navan effort in third, but he was held when making a bad mistake at the last, while Triumph winner Ivanovich Gorbatov (152) ran better than of late back up in trip in fourth.
Willie Mullins has a fantastic record in the Royal Bond, a race that has gone the way of Istabraq, Moscow Flyer, Hardy Eustace, Hurricane Flyer and Jezki in previous years, and he won the Grade 1 contest again, though not with the stable’s shortest-priced runner Peace News (132p) who fell two from home when still holding every chance. Victory went to the Danny Mullins-ridden Airlie Beach (up 4 lb to 140p) who is now unbeaten in seven starts and is already as short as 5/2 for the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Stablemate Saturnas (139p from 124p) couldn't follow up last month's Naas hurdling debut success, but still took a big step forward in defeat, much more than can be said for Labaik (has a § added to his rating of 140) who blotted his copybook again by refusing to race, as he had done twice on the Flat earlier this year. Favourite Penhill (down 4 lb to 140) saw his winning run come to an end, though was better than the result; in touch when badly hampered two out.
The Drinmore Novices’ Chase is a Grade 1 event that had been dominated by Gigginstown House Stud-owned horses in recent years, last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack starting a sequence of three straight wins, but while they arrived mob-handed this time around it was a pair sporting the colours of J. P. McManus that filled the first two spots. Winner Coney Island (150p from 136p), who was backed at long odds, jumped soundly, travelled best and was a comprehensive two-and-a-quarter length winner over Anibale Fly. Effective at three miles over hurdles, Coney Island seems sure to progress and win more races, with the Fort Leney at Leopardstown over the Christmas period looking a suitable next target. Anibale Fly (up 5 lb to 148p) conceded first run to the winner but finished his race well; like the winner, he has made a most encouraging start to his chasing career. A similar comment applies to World Hurdle runner-up Alpha des Obeaux (now 147p) who continues to progress over fences, with the prospect of better still to come based on last season's high-class form over hurdles. Diamond King shaped better than the distance beaten suggests in fifth eight weeks after making a winning start over fences, in a share of second when making a late error (his first of any significance); he remains open to improvement. A Toi Phil (down 1 lb and loses ‘p’ on 147) didn't jump well enough and wasn't up to the task in this Grade 1 company.