Last year's Grand National third Seabass confirmed himself a major contender for this season's renewal of the Aintree spectacular with a tremendous comeback run over hurdles at Fairyhouse.
The Ted Walsh-trained 10-year-old was a heavily supported joint-favourite for the world's most famous steeplechase last April and gave the trainer's daughter Katie Walsh a fantastic spin to be beaten just five lengths.
Making his first appearance since in a two-mile hurdle race, Seabass was hardly going to be seen to best effect but ran on strongly to fill the runner-up spot behind the impressive Rock Critic.
The Willie Mullins-trained Make Your Mark was the 4-6 market leader for the Racegoer's 25 Euros Package Hurdle on the strength of some strong novice form last term, but 9-4 shot Rock Critic was travelling much the better of the pair as they rounded the home turn as one.
Once given his head by Robbie McNamara, the Dermot Weld-trained Rock Critic scooted clear to make it two from two over obstacles by three and three-quarter lengths.
Seabass was predictably outpaced as the front pair swung into the straight, but finished well under Ruby Walsh to grab the runner-up spot from a rather disappointing Make Your Mark.
Walsh senior was delighted with the performance and with Colbert Station also Aintree-bound, the trainer now has two major contenders as he aims to win the race for a second time following the triumph of Papillon in 2000.
Walsh said: "I'm happy with him. He'll run somewhere in three weeks' time. There is the Bobbyjo Chase, the race he won in Naas last year, and also the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton. The plan is to give him another run and then go to Aintree. He has fragile old legs and you wouldn't want to be abusing him."
Stan James clipped Seabass to 16-1 from 20-1 for the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree on April 6, and Rock Critic was cut to 12-1 by the same firm for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Weld said: "He did what I thought he would do. He knows his job and he jumps well. He would much prefer better ground. We've no definite plan - we'll speak to the owners. He's entered in Cheltenham, but at the moment I see him as a Punchestown/Fairyhouse horse. He jumped like a stag."
6 March 2014Benbulben misses Cheltenham
Card 'gut wrencher' for Tizzard
Guard stands tall for new record
Faugheen looms over Neptune field
Ballycasey stands firm in RSA
Sire spearheads Queen Mother list
Australia still in Derby shake-up
Henderson perfectly happy with Tent
McNamara in 'excellent spirits'
Regal leads the way in Imperial
Codd snapped up for Sea
Farm National bid in the balance
Byron all set for Aussie challenge
Ayr takes precautions
Bridgwater salutes unsung hero
Murtagh watches on at Lingfield
Mullins retains Fly supporting cast
Bittar welcomes bill amendments
Fenton cleared for Festival runners
Trip concerns sway McCoy to Fishers
Regal vies for Imperial rule
Mullins quintet in Supreme mix
Arkle has Champagne sparkle
Rizeena given dual Guineas options
5 March 2014Bailey praying for rain
Cee Bee supplemented for Champion
Sherwood leaning towards Bartlett
Module to take Queen Mother test
Cee Bee supplemented for Champion
Farr closes in on Winter repeat
Cirrus satisfies Barande-Barbe
Oscar teed up for Bumper raid
Tent 'sound' after injury scare
Sparrow in full flight
Seven shooting straight for Aintree
BHA soothes Mullins security fears
Moore frets over Sea Winter run
Hopes high for Alderwood return
Bolger to make late Gilgamboa call
Nay Never could be a Jersey boy
Guard gallops into record books
Cirrus fourth on Chantilly return
Security on Mullins' mind
Crecy takes Treve pacemaking role
More Of That ride up for grabs
Parade set to swerve Cheltenham
Upbeat Henderson monitoring Tent
Tea team not expecting miracles
4 March 2014Lad aiming to lift Wulfruna prize
Weld waits on Vigil call
Sherwood facing Dan deliberation
Coup was "satisfying", says Curley
Walsh: Annie can go the distance
Hughes at ease with Colonel
Wincanton switch for Artillery
Milan set for hurdles outing
Avenue back on road to Sandown
Fontwell abandons Wednesday card
Saviour likely to miss season
No World bid for Monksland
Braithwaite seeking Dream success
3 March 2014Guard bids for record success
Conor Cheltenham-bound on Thursday
Mullins eyes World rule with Annie
Benefficient set for Ryanair
Mossey to wait for Aintree
Stricken Edgar to have leg op
Plans on hold for Godsmejudge
Module team wait on Festival call
Maguire sees Red in Bumper
Triolo given Gold go-ahead
Babe team eager for Festival run