Paul Townend timed it to perfection to get Blackstairmountain back to winning ways in the McCarthy Insurance Group Hurdle at Cork.
A Grade One winner over timber as a novice, he also reached the same heights over fences last season but tends to struggle against the best when the mud is flying, so Willie Mullins is now eyeing up a race in Japan.
Fosters Cross made sure it was a real test and Davy Condon was allowed an easy lead in front with his advantage still around 10 lengths turning into the long home straight, but Blackstairmountain (4-7 favourite) collared him on the run-in and held off Arnaud by three-quarters of a length.
Mullins said: "We'll keep it to those type of races with him until the ground gets better. We're going to aim him at the Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan in April. The ground conditions over there will suit him and he's a Grade One horse. He's the only one I have for the race, although it will be costly to send him."
The trainer was also on the mark in the McCarthy Insurance Group Maiden Hurdle with Midnight Oil (evens favourite). With Luca Cumani on the Flat, he had been outclassed in his previous two races but coasted home under Davy Russell.
Mullins said: "We decided to ride him more positively today and he enjoyed it better. He should improve more when the ground is drier. If he does improve on better ground, which I think he will, he'll step back up to Graded company. He's a grand, big, jumping type of horse and the ground is key to him."
The stable made it a treble when Terminal (1-2 favourite) eventually wore down A Fine Young Man in the McCarthy Insurance Group Beginners' Chase.
An almighty touch was landed by Sabrina Harty's Dalasiri in the McCarthy Insurance Group Maiden Hurdle for four-year-olds, the grey having been backed from a morning price of 33-1 into just 9-2 on-course.
Sent to the front four from home by Andrew Lynch, the Aga Khan-bred showed far more than on his previous start at Christmas and sprinted clear to win from Spot The Pro by 11 lengths.
Harty said: "We felt at home that he had a good turn of foot and we dropped him in at Leopardstown. He was just staying on when he made two mistakes. But his jumping is as slick as you get. I ride him myself and schooled him as well. Today was the plan but he should make a nice dual purpose horse."
19 December 2014Master back in the spotlight
Grugy in line to start cantering
Newland seeks more from Re
Prize money boost in HRI initiative
Zig zips to impressive victory
New steroids policy delayed
Serge states Supreme case
Martin readying big guns
Exciting Sceaux out at Fairyhouse
Firebird skips National service
Hobbs on Garde at Ascot
Fry excited by Activial chance
The New One in Haydock return
Reve camp not expecting a hat-trick
King issues Chatez Triumph warning
Bolger searching for Mossey key
King weighs up Karezak options
Henderson hoping Bobs makes Lexus
Simonsig camp play the long game
In-form Mole buries Exeter rivals
Sedgefield hit with heavy fine
Star names check in for Ryanair
Bobs revved up for Lexus repeat
Knott disqualified for three years
Geraghty braced for power Serge
Geraghty excited by Josses return
Activial stars in Ladbroke field
18 December 2014Alvarado back for National service
Winner given Lexus go-ahead
Cheltenham dreams for King's Zero
Sivola bids for Long Walk hat-trick
Power plan uncertain for Westener
Kauto pleases in Olympia display
Mullins eyes twin assault on Lexus
Value oozes class in Newbury romp
Annie Power on road to recovery
Spencer strikes after U-turn
Vautour ready for next jumps test
Mullins banks on Faugheen progress
Victory set to skip Ladbroke
Mullins: Fever can go the distance
17 December 2014Sidelined Brian misses Whittle
Sceaux to sidestep Haydock raid
Square season derailed by injury
Lexus a non-starter for Clouds
Europe return hinges on ground
Injury woe for Cookson
Plans on hold for Topper
Appeal success for Russell/Enright
Mulholland makes Master plan
Cango makes Catterick impression
Field sizes under BHA microscope
Quinn outlines Aurore options
Legal laying down the law at Ludlow
Ground dictates Attaglance plans
King heartened by Walkon return
Cross set Christmas conundrum
16 December 2014Pipe bowled over by Palace
Cole to duck Leopardstown mission
Pipe bowled over by Palace
Arbuthnot has Starluck options
Geraghty taken with weekend Heroes
Moore the merrier at Plumpton
Estrella back with a bang
Options fluid for Hargam
Lough set for Lexus workout
Sceaux in Haydock frame
Victoire at Ladbroke summit
Five left in Long Walk