Stormy Ireland capped a fine festive period for Willie and Danny Mullins when winning the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Less than a week after combining to land the King George VI Chase with outsider Tornado Flyer, they returned to England to plunder another big prize.
The diminutive mare had only run once this season when proving a disappointment behind Honeysuckle in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
However, she was back to her terrier-like best on this occasion with an all-the-way success.
In her younger days she had a habit of tearing off in front and it was a case of seeing if she could hang on, but these days she is far more tractable.
Never more than five lengths clear, she looked a siting duck turning into the straight as Brewin’upastorm and McFabulous loomed up, with Guard Your Dreams and Dans Le Vent also on the premises.
Mullins had kept a bit up his sleeve, however, and kicked again, seeing off everything bar the favourite Brewin’upastorm.
Aidan Coleman appeared to be travelling marginally the better on the run to the final flight but he met it all wrong and came down, just as he had two years ago when looking set to win a Grade Two novice hurdle at the track.
That left 4-1 shot Stormy Ireland clear to beat Paul Nicholls’ McFabulous by two and a half lengths.
Stormy Ireland wins a dramatic renewal of the Grade 2 @TheDornanGroup Relkeel Hurdle, galloping to victory having been left clear at the last under @dan2231 for trainer @WillieMullinsNH 🥇— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) January 1, 2022
Great to see Brewin'upastorm and Aidan Coleman up and ok following their fall 👍 pic.twitter.com/R9HIHEyY1R
Danny Mullins said: "I’m delighted to have an association with this horse all because Paul (Townend) had a date with Al Boum Photo at Tramore.
"I was able to build the race as I saw fit. She likes to burn early but today they couldn’t get to me.
"It was 50-50 coming to the last but my gut feeling was that I was starting to get on top.
"She is a right tough little mare. She’s not the biggest but she has a huge heart.
"To have the pressure and be able to deliver as a jockey and to get it right is one of the greatest feelings imaginable. But I am just a small cog in the wheel."
L'Homme Presse (7-4F) continued his progression with a splendid round of jumping as he dominated his rivals in the Paddy Power Novices’ Chase.
The Grade Two contest, registered as the Dipper, had attracted a strong field with some promising types taking part in The Glancing Queen, Come On Teddy and Millers Bank.
Having guessed at a couple of early fences, Charlie Deutsch let L'Homme Presse stride on and he appeared to benefit from that, lengthening into his fences and stretching out the field.
The Glancing Queen had been smuggled into contention by Tom Cannon and at the second last was only two lengths down, still looking a threat.
But Deutsch just got a little lower in the saddle, gave his mount a squeeze and L’Homme Presse scooted clear to win by 10 lengths.
Fantastikas was prominent throughout and stayed on for third, just ahead of Oscar Elite.
The Grade 2 @paddypower 'Dipper' Novices' Chase goes the way of L'Homme Presse, who jumps with aplomb and streaks clear for an authoritative success in the hands of @charliedeutsch2 for trainer @VenetiaWRacing 🏆 pic.twitter.com/aqRgNWi8XS— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) January 1, 2022
"It was lovely to see him jump like that after the mare (Destinee Royale) had tripped up in the previous race," said winning trainer Venetia Williams.
"I was pleased with the way he quickened up, but he’s had three relatively quick races.
"I don’t think we need to be going up in trip just yet given he’s doing what he’s doing, but I really liked the way he quickened to the line.
"He’s won off 148 and was best in at the weights, but I don’t know where he will go or which race he could come back here for."
Hillcrest (3-1) made just about all the running to remain unbeaten this season in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle – the first race at Cheltenham in 2022.
Trained by Henry Daly, the seven-year-old lacks nothing in size and clearly has his fair share of ability as well.
Richard Patrick bounced him out into an early lead and he appeared to be going well within himself for much of the contest.
The Nicky Henderson-trained favourite I Am Maximus, who had sweated up beforehand and raced on and off the bridle, looked a threat entering the straight but Hillcrest towered above him.
While the favourite briefly hit the front for a few strides, Patrick had not asked his mount for everything and when he did there was still plenty left in the tank and he pulled two lengths clear.
"He’s taller than my measuring stick will go, and when he arrived at the yard he weighed in at 693 kilos. Most of mine are 520 (kg), which puts it into perspective," said Daly.
"He’s big and he’s very talented. He’s had a lob round and Richard never had to pick up his stick.
"He doesn’t have to make the running and he’s got a great mind on him. I just wanted to see what he was like on an undulating track.
"When you think what a chaser looks like, it will look like him. He’s a real Trevor (Hemmings) horse."
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Vienna Court (10-1) travelled supremely well before staying on strongly to win the Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase.
With plenty of pace on as Coole Cody once again attempted to make all, Sam Twiston-Davies was able to drop the mare out early on.
She appeared going ominously well coming down the hill but then had to be game to see off the attentions of Paul Nicholls’ Simply The Betts, winning by a length and three-quarters.
"After her previous win we had to decide whether to go for another mares’ race or a decent handicap," said the winning trainer.
"We called it right, but Sam was last early on and when he switched her on, he couldn’t stop her.
"She’s still a novice and will be odds-on next time, but if she wins again we will need to think about the mares’ chase at the Festival.
"It’s always good to win here. I’ve had more winners here than at any other racecourse."
Paddy Brennan came with a late rattle in the concluding bumper as Fergal O’Brien’s Poetic Music (7-2F) maintained her unbeaten record.