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Last Updated: 05/01/14 3:45pm
Briar Hill: Well on top at the line
Briar Hill had to work hard to master his two rivals in the Grade Two Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas.
The Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner was sent off at 1/3 favourite in a race which has been won by the likes of Mikael d'Haguenet, Monksland and Rule The World and never really looked in danger of defeat.
Happy to be given a lead for the first time over hurdles, Ruby Walsh was content to allow Briar Hill - who was conceding 7 and 10lbs to his rivals - to track Apache Jack but he had to get serious with his mount when Bryan Cooper quickened the pace approaching the turn for home.
In testing conditions, the response wasn't exactly immediate but he did keep finding for pressure and imposed his class on the field on the run to the line.
Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins suggested it is unlikely Briar Hill will go back in trip for the Sky Bet Supreme making it a straight choice at Cheltenham between the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdles.
Mullins said: "He's improving all the time. It was a nice performance giving weight away against two good horses, and that probably wouldn't be his preferred ground.
"I imagine I might give him another run before Cheltenham - we'll see, though, as I haven't anything in mind. He's lazy, and Ruby said the minute he passed the winning post he dropped it (the bridle) - he only does enough all the time.
"He jumped well and hopefully he will keep improving. He's bred to get a trip, but he seems to have plenty of speed on better ground.
"He'll get an entry in the three races at Cheltenham, but I imagine we'll look at the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett, depending on what other runners we have."
The winner is a general 7/1 second favourite for the Albert Bartlett over three miles and available at up to 14/1 for the shorter Neptune.