Clonmel honours for Monalee
Henry de Bromhead continued his excellent run of big-race success as Monalee ran out an authoritative winner of the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle at Clonmel.
Henry de Bromhead: Unleashed Cheltenham Festival contender Monalee
The Knockeen-based trainer claimed Thyestes Chase glory with the Cheltenham Gold Cup-bound Champagne West last week, before enjoying a Grade One double at Leopardstown on Sunday with Irish Champion Hurdle hero Petit Mouchoir and Irish Arkle winner Some Plan.
Monalee, a winner on his hurdling debut at Punchestown, brought strong credentials to this Grade Three contest, having chased home top-class novice Death Duty in December's Navan Novice Hurdle.
Rathnure Rebel took the six-strong field along for much of the three-mile journey, but Monalee was never too far off the pace in the hands of David Mullins.
The 6/4 favourite hit the front rounding the home turn and although Battleford briefly threatened to make a race of it, De Bromhead's charge was ultimately well on top as he passed the post four and three-quarter lengths to the good.
The disappointment of the race was Turcagua, who having been held up by Ruby Walsh, failed to make any ground and was eventually pulled up.
Mullins, who was in the saddle for Champagne West and Petit Mouchoir, said: "He's gone well in the ground, he jumped and travelled and did everything right. He made my life easy, anyway.
"He's fresh as daisy (after the race) and I think you'd go a long way to go to the bottom of this horse.
"His future is going to be over fences, but he'll be an exciting horse to go to Cheltenham with if they do.
"I'd say three miles would be ideal and he's got a serious engine."
Paddy Power reacted by trimming Monalee 12-1 from 20-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle next month.
De Bromhead said: "It was a really good performance and a super ride from David. I hoped he might do something like that – it was a competitive race and he did it really nicely.
"We think he wants better ground. He ran a savage race in a bumper at the Punchestown Festival last year. He's by Milan and is a good moving horse.
"He's entered in the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett, and we'll see nearer the time.
"The Albert Bartlett would look the obvious race, but there are a few things we need to consider – like Death Duty. He has a bit of class as well."
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