O'Brien rolls back the years
Aidan O'Brien is set to be represented at this year's Cheltenham Festival after Shield booked his place in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper with a fine victory at Leopardstown on Sunday.
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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."
Tony Martin and Davy Russell combined to take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase with 5-1 shot Savello.
Martin said: "It was a good performance and he jumped very well. He was very difficult and very free, which is why he wears the hood, but he's got a bit of age on his side and he's learning."
Jessica Harrington's 7-4 joint-favourite Operating opened his account over obstacles with a smooth display in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden Hurdle.
Harrington said: "Operating has just been crying out for better ground - I thought he might get it at Christmas but we had this maiden hurdle mapped out for a long time.
"He jumped brilliantly, it was his first time at two and a half miles. We'll go chasing next year but the idea is to go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown."
The admirable Fosters Cross (10-1) ran out a wide-margin winner of what looked a competitive Ballsbridge Hurdle, powering up the straight to score by 12 lengths from hot favourite Blackstairmountain.
Winning trainer Tom Mullins said: "We could go for some of the minor events at Fairyhouse and Punchestown, if there are such things! He'll then get a rest before the Galway Festival - that's his main target."
Summer Star (7-2 favourite) came from the clouds to claim a last-gasp victory for Ted and Katie Walsh in the www.leopardstown.com Handicap Hurdle.
Walsh senior said: "She could never get any closer, they went a good gallop, she missed a few but she rallied home well from the second last.
"The horse in front got lonesome and she nabbed him on the line. It's lovely when it works out."
Down Under was a 20-1 winner of the Leopardstown Club Members Handicap Chase.