Airlie Beach rides the wave
Airlie Beach kept her unbeaten record intact with a tenacious all-the-way success in the EBF Lough Construction Ltd Mares Novice Hurdle at Down Royal.
Ruby Walsh was on board Airlie Beach
The winner of a bumper at Kilbeggan on her sole start last year, the six-year-old returned to the Westmeath circuit to make a successful start to her jumping career in July and has not looked back, completing a five-timer in a Listed event at Gowran Park last month.
Sent off the 4-6 favourite stepped up to Grade Three level, the Willie Mullins-trained soon adopted her customary pacesetting role in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Gordon Elliott's Shattered Love, third in a Grade Two bumper at Aintree in the spring and a winner on her hurdling debut at Tipperary, was always close at hand under David Mullins.
The big two settled down to fight it out from the home turn and Airlie Beach knuckled down after the final flight to prevail by half a length.
Walsh said: "We were giving 7lb to the second horse. I suppose we had experience over her, but it was a good performance.
"She was tough and battled well from the back of the last. She'll keep improving, I think."
"Dropping back from two-and-a-half to two miles nearly exposed her for speed a little bit, but her stamina won it for her.
"She's game and probably would appreciate maybe a fraction slower ground.
"She stays that well and if she did go on slower ground it would be a huge attribute to her."
Airlie Beach is a best-priced 8-1 for the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Steve Massey, racing manager for owners the Supreme Horseracing Club, said: "She's won six out of six and deserves a break if that's what Willie wants to do.
"We've got an eye on going across the water in March. Whether we run again now, I don't think she needs to, but we'll leave it to Willie, as always."
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