The Big Dog pounced on a mistake at the last by Lifetime Ambition to follow up his Munster National success in the Bar One Racing Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan – and leave Peter Fahey dreaming of Aintree with his ever-improving nine-year-old.
Jessica Harrington's runner-up had produced an exhibition of galloping and jumping in the hands of 7lb claimer Conor Smithers for the majority of the contest, leading the field along and still holding a length lead over his sole pursuer at the final obstacle.
However, with the petrol gauge flashing red, an untidy jump allowed Fahey’s 11-1 shot, who had been tracking the leader throughout, to storm clear on the run to the line in the hands of Keith Donoghue and defy the 8lb rise he received for winning at Limerick last month.
The Davy Russell-ridden Death Duty finished best of the Gordon Elliott battalion in third, with stablemate Coko Beach in the hands of American champion jockey Parker Hendricks taking fourth.
Watch the closing stages of the Troytown at Navan, which went the way of the Peter Fahey-trained, Keith Donoghue-ridden 11-1 shot The Big Dog. pic.twitter.com/VMVWUGibMY— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) November 27, 2022
"I was telling the lads (Damien and Colin Kelly, owners) going to Limerick that he would improve a good bit from it but when he won, I was thinking how am I going to improve him from this," said the winning trainer.
"He stepped up today and is a very lucky horse for me and the lads. It was a good performance today carrying the weight.
"The way he’s performing he could end up being a Grand National horse."
Donoghue added: "I knew this lad stayed and I was glad to see a good pace in the race. He didn’t jump as well as he can today and the picture at the last won’t be great, but we got over it and I knew the finish here would suit.
"He’s a real stayer and was always going to keep finding for me. When he got to the front his ears were pricked, he’d loads left. It’s brilliant."
Who's a good boy? - The Big Dog gave his connections a day to remember in the Troytown at Navan on Sunday afternoon and could yet end up running in the most famous National Hunt race of them all. pic.twitter.com/HkUxFjAwzI— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) November 27, 2022
Dawn Rising (10-1) scooped Grade Three honours when scoring in a dramatic renewal of the John Lynch Carpets & Flooring Monksfield Novice Hurdle.
Winning rider Mark Walsh was content to restrain the former Bahrain Trophy runner-up for the majority of the contest as favourite American Mike and his chief market rival Affordale Fury disputed things up front.
In fact, that duo looked to have the race to sort out between them as the quartet taking part turned for home and it was Noel Meade's charge in the hands of Bryan Cooper who was beginning to take control before crashing out at the final flight.
That appeared to hand American Mike a fortunate victory, but Walsh and the Joseph O’Brien-trained Dawn Rising had been staying on strongly from off the pace and wore down the Champion Bumper runner-up in the closing stages.
"I didn’t think three from home that we would be winning, but he was gradually closing them down," said Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus.
"It looked like they went quick up front and just paid the penalty for it. I’d say he would have won anyway (if the leader had not fallen at the last) as they got very tired up in front.
"He just kept galloping away and doesn’t mind the ground. It’s nice to win anyway.
"We’ll see where we go from here and maybe find something around Christmas."
O’Brien was also on the scoresheet when Comfort Zone (10-3) produced a performance befitting of his name to open his hurdles account in the Bar One Racing 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle.
Comfort Zone barely broke sweat in the hands of JJ Slevin as he recorded a taking six-length success.
"He stays a mile and a half well on the Flat. His last run at Leopardstown when he was third to Zoffman was a good run," said assistant trainer Brendan Powell.
"The idea today was to get him jumping and let him finish. He jumped great and travelled beautiful. JJ said three out he knew he was going to be thereabouts. He jumped the last well and kept galloping.
"He’s done plenty of schooling at home and jumped very well. Hopefully he’ll be another good juvenile."
Grangeclare West (2-1F) looks another hot prospect for Willie Mullins and owners Cheveley Park following an impressive display on his hurdling debut.
Not seen for 547 days since recording a facile nine-length success in a Punchestown bumper, the £430,000 purchase from the pointing field was equally as destructive when jumping obstacles under rules for the first time.
Paul Townend was motionless as he stalked market rivals Kudasheva and Firm Footings down to the final flight and the rider simply had to push the button on the six-year-old as he stretched away to win the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden Hurdle by 13 lengths.
The Closutton handler is now tempted to test the son of Presenting in Grade One company, with the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle on 8 January identified as a potential target.
"He impressed me considering he was so keen early on and jumped a bit big during the race," said Mullins.
"Then he settled, and Paul got him together and got him balanced. Once he got down to gallop, he impressed me.
"I’m not sure he’s entered in the Grade One at Christmas and if he’s not then the obvious race would be the Lawlor’s in Naas.
"He surprised me in the manner he did it. As I said to the owner before racing, we could run well here and finish fourth or fifth. It looked a good race."