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Last Updated: 24/01/10 5:13pm
Solwhit - easy winner.
Solwhit shot to Cheltenham favouritism after confirming himself a top-class horse with victory in the Toshiba Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Celestial Halo set out to make all under Ruby Walsh but could only finish fourth and was one of the first of the principals to crack as Sublimity went on at the third-last, seemingly full of running on ground soft enough for him.
Solwhit was niggled along by Davy Russell turning for home but was soon right on Sublimity's heels, jumping the last in front and well in command.
The Charles Byrnes-trained 5-6 favourite ran on strongly for a four-and-a-half-length success over Donnas Palm, who edged the gallant Sublimity for second.
Bookmaker reaction was swift, with totesport installing Solwhit as the 7-2 favourite for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, while Paddy Power make him their 3-1 market leader.
Victor Chandler go 5-1 with Sky Bet and William Hill 4-1. Totesport halved Donnas Palm in price to 20-1.
Byrnes said: "All he wants is a properly run race and he got that today.
"That's all we wanted all season. The Fighting Fifth they absolutely walked and sprinted for three furlongs.
"He's absolutely brilliant to jump - the fastest jumper I've ever had. You could see in the parade ring that he's so calm and takes everything really easy.
"Hopefully we'll get him in the same form for Cheltenham. My only concern for Cheltenham would be good ground.
"He does handle good ground but might need a bit further on it, although he'll take his chance.
"He doesn't take much work, which after the weather we've had is a big help.
"But that's him today - take it or leave it, there's no improvement to come.
"He's a horse that doesn't take much work at home and it's all systems go now."
Russell added: "He travelled well into the straight, I was off the bridle before Sublimity but that's normal.
"He jumped accurately today and even idled before the line. He's lived up to our expectations.
"The hill at Cheltenham will be tailor-made for him, but that's only my opinion as Ive never ridden a Champion Hurdle winner there before."
Noel Meade will take plenty from the race, not least that his yard houses leading Champion Hurdle hope Go Native, who had Solwhit in arrears in the Fighting Fifth.
He said: "I'm very happy with that. We knew we weren't out of our depth and always felt he was in the mix with the best.
"It does make us very happy about the other fellow though.
"Ideally he'd want better ground, he's in at Cheltenham but we'll keep Liverpool in mind."
Sublimity's trainer Robbie Hennessy said of the 2007 Champion Hurdle hero: "At Christmas Davy got first run on us, so Philip (Carberry) was careful not to let him get away today. He jumped brilliantly and on good ground he has to be bang there again."
Paul Nicholls was inclined to blame the ground for Celestial Halo's seemingly below-par effort.
He said: "Perhaps he wants better ground, Ruby said he felt slow and laboured today and the last time he won on soft ground he wasn't impressive.
"He has always run better at Cheltenham on better ground. He'll go straight there now and we'll just have to hope it dries up."