Pencilfulloflead overturned the odds-on favourite Latest Exhibition in the Liam & Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown.
The Grade Two event has been won by some smart sorts down the years and Pencilfulloflead was providing trainer Gordon Elliott with a fourth success in the previous five seasons.
Pencilfulloflead never ran in graded company while Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition was a Grade One winner and narrowly denied at the Cheltenham Festival, but he always looked to be travelling the better of the two.
In the heavy ground, Rachael Blackmore was keen her mount did not hit the front too soon and she was content to sit behind Brace Yourself who set the pace.
While Bryan Cooper was asking for several big leaps from the favourite on the way round, Blackmore’s mount popped away like an old hand.
The two jumped the second last fence together, but Pencilfulloflead (11-2) quickened away to win by seven lengths.
Bookmakers cut the winner to around 16-1 for the three-mile novice chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
“It was a very good performance. He’s a real stayer and he needed to be out there today,” said Blackmore.
“He was a little tight to the third last, but I gave him a little squeeze after it to make sure the door didn’t get shut. I had plenty of horse under me and he did it really well to the line.
“It’s great for (owner) Brian Acheson as he’s putting a lot into the game in the Robcour colours.
“He jumps and he stays. They were Gordon’s words to me before we went out and that’s what he is. He’s a lovely horse for everyone to have.”
Elliott was absent having attended an overseas sale recently, but said via telephone: “The softer the ground, the better for him and there is more to come over three miles.
“He’ll be entered for the three-mile Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas, but if it was very testing at Limerick, could go for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One.”
Elliott then teamed up with Jack Kennedy to win the other Grade Two on the card, the Unibet 1000th Race Celebration Hurdle, with Fury Road.
Sent off the 4-11 favourite on the back of being beaten in a three-way photo in the Albert Bartlett in March, he nevertheless had to be kept up to his work by Kennedy.
Eventually his stamina kicked in and Fury Road pulled three and a half lengths clear of the Ted Walsh-trained Dewcup.
Betfair cut Fury Road to 12-1 from 16s for the Stayers’ Hurdle in March.
Kennedy said: “He was only dossing out in front and got in under the last a little bit. He’ll come on for that and I’m happy with him.
“I was only hacking around the whole way and he’ll be better going a stronger gallop and a bit further.”
Elliott said: “He’s in the Hatton’s Grace, but that will come quick enough and he’ll probably go for the three-mile Grade One at Christmas.”
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