All smiles as Eklat De Rire books Festival ticket

Henry de Bromhead, trainer
Image: Henry de Bromhead, trainer

Eklat De Rire appears to have booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival following an impressive display in the Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase.

A winner on his chasing debut at Punchestown last month, Henry de Bromhead's charge faced a step up in class for what looked a competitive renewal of this Grade Three contest.

But the 11-4 chance was soon bowling along at the head of affairs in the hands of Rachael Blackmore - and some quick and accurate leaps kept the pressure on his rivals in behind.

Gordon Elliott's pair of Escaria Ten and Pencilfulloflead attempted to close the gap from the home turn, but Eklat De Rire did not wilt - keeping up the gallop to beat the former by just under two lengths.

Eklat De Rire is entered in the National Hunt Chase and the Festival Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, and his trainer said: "He was deadly and is improving all the time. I couldn't have asked for any more.

"He handles an ease in the ground well. He's a big heavy topped fella - and while we have never run him on it, I'd say he wouldn't want the ground too good.

"I'll have to speak to the owners, but we said if today went well we would aim for the Festival Novices' Chase at Cheltenham.

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"He stays well and he jumps well. He was impressive there and I'd say he deserves his chance after that."

De Bromhead and Blackmore were completing a double on the card following the earlier success of Mr Incredible (11-8) in division two of the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.

De Bromhead added: "He's a lovely big chasing prospect, still a big baby and very raw.

"Colin Bowe recommended him to us, and I'm delighted to have him."

A return to Cheltenham is also on the cards for Billaway, who landed the concluding Naas Hunters Chase for the second year in succession.

The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old went on to finish second in the St James's Place Hunters' Chase at Prestbury Park last season - and despite not always convincing in the jumping department in this latest outing under the trainer's son Patrick, he is the clear favourite to go one better in March.

Mullins senior said: "He did what he had to do in the end, but he just made hard work of it.

"Patrick said he wasn't in love with that ground, so it was good to do what he did. He said he didn't like jumping out of that ground.

"He'll head now for Cheltenham."

Paul Townend matched jockeys' title rival Blackmore in notching two winners, with the success of Mullins' Bachasson (11-8) in the Limestone Lad Hurdle preceded by victory aboard Dermot Weld's 11-4 favourite Coltor in the Naas Maiden Hurdle.

"He stuck it out well in fairness to him," he said of the latter.

"He'd the experience of two runs, which was a big help.

"He'll probably appreciate a bit of nicer ground, but he handled that as well as you'd expect him to."

Mouse Morris and Phillip Enright combined to win the first division of the maiden hurdle with Limestone Rock (3-1), before Pat Fahy's Stormy Judge obliged at 11-2 in the Tipper Road Novice Handicap Chase under Danny Mullins.

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