As expected, the Gordon Elliott-trained 5-6 favourite Death Duty duly landed the odds to take the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday afternoon, but the mount of Jack Kennedy’s nine length victory over the grey Turcagua tells only part of the race’s story as the runner-up’s stable companion Augusta Kate and Ruby Walsh were laying down a serious challenge to the market leader as the pair approached the final hurdle with the contest between them only for the mare to suffer a crunching fall, leaving a dejected Walsh to ponder what might have been for the daughter of Yeats.

Death Duty was winning for the fourth time over timber following victories at Roscommon and Navan, with two Graded wins coming at the latter track. On the Cheltenham Festival front, bookmakers took the opportunity to cut the winner into a top price 5-2 ( Bet365, Boylesports and Betfair Sportsbook ) for the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle while the unfortunate final hurdle casualty can be backed at a standout 7-1 with Coral for the Mares’ Novices Hurdle, although that price may not last long as the six-year-old is as short as 4-1 with Stan James and Boylesports to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Limini, also from the Willie Mullins stable.

The day is probably one that leading rider Ruby Walsh will want to forget as apart from his departure from the mare in the meeting’s feature contest he also found himself on the floor when partnering 8-15 favourite American Tom in the preceding novice chase, although the horse looked to be struggling when falling heavily at the seventh fence. The two mile contest was eventually won by the 7-1 outsider of four Some Plan who joined trainer Henry de Bromhead from the Paul Nicholls stable at the start of the season. Winning for the second time in three starts for de Bromhead, the one defeat coming when falling at Cheltenham back in November.

The Winged Love gelding could well return to Prestbury Park for the festival in March with the possibility of taking on Altior, Min and company in the Arkle Chase for which the horse is currently a best price 25-1 with William Hill and Boylesports.

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By Alan Kelly

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