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By Martin Kelly, Press Association Sport. Last Updated: 20/01/10 4:49pm
Solwhit - outpointed Sublimity at Leopardstown.
Solwhit banished the memory of his disappointing Newcastle display and enhanced his Champion Hurdle claims with a granite performance in the Leopardstown Golf Centre December Festival Hurdle.
The smooth-travelling Sublimity looked set to pick him up jumping the final flight but Charles Byrnes' 8-11 favourite blocked every punch and denied him back-to-back wins in the Grade One event by two lengths.
Coral were impressed enough to make Solwhit the 4-1 joint-favourite, alongside Zaynar, for the Smurfit Kappa-sponsored Champion Hurdle, while William Hill are not far behind and go 9-2 from 5s.
Solwhit burst on the scene at Aintree last spring with a first Grade One success and has continued to make impressive progress.
The five-year-old went on to claim the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in May and then relegated Hurricane Fly back to third with another top-level triumph at the same venue last month.
Byrnes points to a lack of pace for his defeat in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and all roads for Davy Russell's mount now lead to the Champion Hurdle on March 16.
Byrnes said: "They went a reasonably even pace today compared to Newcastle, without going too fast, and the rain came for him just in time.
"The Irish Champion Hurdle and then on to Cheltenham will probably be the plan.
"My concern would be if it came up good ground in Cheltenham as he probably needs two and a half miles on good ground.
"Davy had a Plan B with the potential lack of pace and if nothing was going to go on then we were going to make the running. We wanted to make sure it didn't turn out like it did in Newcastle.
"He wouldn't have been doing an awful lot in front there and he always jumps really well."
Sublimity was poised to repeat his win of 12 months earlier when tracking Solwhit over the last, but Robbie Hennessy's stablestar could not crack the market leader.
The winner of the 2007 Champion Hurdle has Cheltenham as his main aim, and Hennessy said: "Once again he has ran a cracker and it is a shame the rain came.
"He made a mistake down the back and I think it just woke him up, but the best horse won on the day.
"He will go to Cheltenham again with an obvious chance.
"He may run in the Irish Champion Hurdle before that depending on the weather, but I do think he will run a good race at Cheltenham."