Cheltenham Festival 2012 

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Naas Winners Take Another Step on the Road to Cheltenham

Noel Meade’s Monksland took a step up in class and came away with an easy success in the Grade Two Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday.

© Caroline Norris


Monksland was sent off at 6-1 and, in the hands of Paul Carberry, was always travelling ominously well.

The hot favourite Dedigout took over the lead going well at the top of the home straight, but had no answer when Monksland swept by and Carberry was able to ease down at the finish to score by four and a half lengths from Lyreen Legend.

Meade said: "He was a difficult horse to break when Willie Slattery had him and when we had him first he wasn't straightforward, but he's fine now.

"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 two-and-a-half-mile hurdle (Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle). 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."

Stan James introduced Monksland at 20-1 for the Neptune, and spokesman Joseph Burke said: "Following that performance, Monksland has to rate as one of the most impressive staying novice hurdlers we have in Ireland."

Coral gave the five-year-old, who is now unbeaten in one bumper and two races over hurdles, a 25-1 quote for the Cheltenham Festival 2012 race.

Sportsmaster bounced back from his hurdling debut mishap by landing the Racing Again On 21st January Maiden Hurdle at Naas.

Edward O'Grady's recruit only made it as far as the fourth obstacle on his first start in this sphere, but he was sent off the 2-5 favourite to get off the mark at the second time of asking.

Mark Walsh sent the JP McManus-owned four-year-old to the front from an early stage and though main market rival Hisaabaat did his best to bridge the gap after jumping the final flight, Sportsmaster was always doing enough and had a length in hand passing the post.

Stan James introduced Sportsmaster at 25-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

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