/ Racing

Meade's Monksland lands Naas feature

Updated: Sunday, 08 Jan 2012 17:01

Off The Mark - Daniel Benson rode his first NH winner when steering Szabo's Destiny to victory at Naas
Off The Mark - Daniel Benson rode his first NH winner when steering Szabo's Destiny to victory at Naas

Noel Meade's Monksland booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival with a runaway victory in the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas.

The five-year-old was an 11-length winner on his sole bumper start at Down Royal in November and had made the perfect start to his career over obstacles at Navan a month later.

A trip to Naas represented a step up in class, with each of his five rivals in the Grade Two contest previous winners.

Paul Carberry was keen to bide his time on the 6-1 chance and could be spotted still travelling strongly as the field prepared to round the turn for home.

Hot favourite Dedigout took over in front at the top of the straight, but he had no answer when Monksland cruised by and Meade's gelding was eased after the final flight to score by four and a half lengths.

Meade said: "That went exactly to plan. I thought he'd win to be honest as he is very good.

"He was involved in a serious piece of work at Fairyhouse where he finished second to Bog Warrior and I think he had a bit up his sleeve.

"He has done everything right since and jumps well. He is good enough for Cheltenham and he will go there for the Neptune.

"I'm not sure whether he will run before that as he is easy to get fit.

"He worked well on Tuesday morning on soft ground and should handle better ground.

"He had earplugs in as he used to be very nervous but he has relaxed and never turned a hair today."

Peter Casey also has big ambitions for Flemenstar following a fine performance in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Novice Chase.

The impressive Navan winner may have headed the early morning markets, but sustained support for the Willie Mullins-trained Lambro saw him sent off the 11-10 favourite.

Andrew Lynch, recording his fourth winner of the weekend, was first to commit for home on Flemenstar and while Lambro did his best to make a race of it, 6-5 chance Flemenstar was too strong.
Casey said: "He will go to Leopardstown for the Arkle (29 January).

"He wants a bit further. The ground was desperate and he probably didn't like it. He did it well when it came down to it. He got under the last a bit.

"It's grand to have a good one like him."

Sportsmaster (2-5 favourite) bounced back from his hurdling debut mishap by landing the Racing Again On 21st January Maiden Hurdle for Edward O'Grady.

Hats And Heels fairly bolted up on her first appearance over obstacles in the Annual Membership At Naas Maiden Hurdle.

Having won at Cork and finished third at Navan in the bumper sphere, the Mullins-trained daughter of Flemensfirth was sent off the 5-6 favourite, with the result scarcely in doubt.

Ruby Walsh eased his mount into contention before pulling easily clear for a five-length verdict.

Mullins said: "She's exciting for her size. She ran around a bit at the second-last but apart from that, she did everything right.

"I might keep her to mares' races but then again she could run in open novices' and make use of her mares' allowance which will be a help to her, given her size."

Champion trainer Mullins went on to record a double as 2-7 favourite Un Atout routed the opposition in the closing bumper, earning a 16-1 quote from Paddy Power for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

Mullins said: "He looks like a racehorse. We will try and win another bumper with him now, maybe two, before we put him away and bring him back next season to go hurdling.

"He is a cool customer, very relaxed and that will help him in his racing career.

"He jumps well at home and we are looking forward to going jumping with him next season."

Luke's Benefit (11-4) took the Tipper Road Handicap Chase under a cool ride from trainer and rider Denis Hogan.

He said: "He was probably all out. They weren't going as quick as I thought they would so I let him stride on from five out.

"He likes to dictate things so it was nice to let him go on.

"I don't know where he will go next, we will see what the handicapper does with him but two miles is his trip."

Szabo's Destiny (3-1) gave young rider Daniel Benson his first national hunt winner when landing the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott.