Aspire Tower proved too strong for fellow Cheltenham Festival runner-up Abacadabras in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Abacadabras was the 8-15 favourite for the Grade Two feature – making his first competitive appearance since being beaten a head by Shishkin in a thrilling renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March.
Henry de Bromhead’s Aspire Tower, last seen finishing behind Burning Victory in the Triumph Hurdle, was in receipt of 6lb from the market leader and was a 3-1 chance in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.
Sent straight to the lead, Aspire Tower jumped well in the main and was followed into the home straight by his stablemate Jason The Militant and Abacadabras, with the trio well clear of the remainder.
Abacadabras looked to be travelling best between the final two flights, but Aspire Tower refused to bend and was going away again at the finish – coming home with four and a half lengths in hand over Abacadabras, who pipped Jason The Militant to second.
Paddy Power cut Aspire Tower to 14-1 from 50-1 for the Champion Hurdle next March, with Abacadabras pushed out to 8-1 from 5-1.
De Bromhead said: “I’m delighted with that. He was so good at Leopardstown at Christmas last year and I just felt after that his form didn’t look as good. He’s a big four-year-old who had just come off the Flat and maybe everything caught up with him a little bit as the season went on.
“We gave him a really good break and it’s fantastic that he has come back like that.
“Rachael was brilliant on him, he is tough out and he did it the hard way on his first run since March.”
“I’m delighted with Jason (The Militant) as well, he ran really well and Paul (Townend) thought he would come on from that.”
When asked if he will be training Aspire Tower as a Champion Hurdle horse, the trainer added: “I think he is entitled to certainly step up again. I’ll speak to the lads and see what everyone wants to do.
“I would imagine we would look at Christmas and see what is going on there.”
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