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Last Updated: 04/03/13 9:15am
Shield (far side) lays it down to Grecian Tiger
Aidan O'Brien is set to have a runner at this season's Cheltenham Festival after Shield booked his place in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper with a fine victory at Leopardstown.
Ireland's perennial champion Flat trainer is no stranger to the National Hunt game, or indeed Cheltenham, having trained the incredible Istabraq to win three successive runnings of the Champion Hurdle.
However, the master of Ballydoyle had not saddled a National Hunt runner in over eight years prior to Shield and stable companion Egyptian Warrior making their racecourse debuts at Punchestown last month.
Having finished fourth and fifth respectively on that occasion, both horses were turned out again for the Killiney INH Flat Race. Shield was sent off at 8-1 in the hands of Kate Harrington and picked up well in the home straight to beat favourite Grecian Tiger, trained by another legend of the Flat in Dermot Weld, by half a length.
Egyptian Warrior, a full-brother to this year's Derby favourite Kingsbarns, failed to build on the promise of his debut and was well beaten under the trainer's daughter, Sarah .
Shield, a 25-1 chance with Sky Bet, is now as short as 14-1 with bet365 for the Champion Bumper and adding further interest to his likely Prestbury Park appearance, his trainer confirmed his son and last season's champion Flat jockey Joseph O'Brien would take the ride.
O'Brien senior said: "Sarah is starting to ride in bumpers now and that's the reason I have a few horses for bumpers. I'm delighted with that and Kate thought that she wanted to drop him in a bit more after Punchestown.
"Kate gave him a great ride and he travelled well and quickened well. He was just ready to run the first day and just ran a bit green.
"Joseph and the lads got him ready for Punchestown but were forcing him a little bit to get there as he had to finish in the first four to be qualified to enter for Cheltenham.
"I think Joseph is able to get special permission to ride him in the Cheltenham bumper - he inquired about it during the week.
"Shield is a homebred and by Dylan Thomas, they get better with every year. He is a lovely, good looking horse and I have a few more bumper horses also ready to run."