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Monksland cruises to victory.

NOEL Meade's Monksland booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival with a runaway victory in the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas yesterday.

The five-year-old was an 11-length winner on his sole bumper start at Down Royal in November and had made the perfect start to his career over obstacles at Navan a month later.

A trip to Naas represented a step up in class, with each of his five rivals in the Grade Two contest previous winners.

Paul Carberry was keen to bide his time on the 6-1 chance and could be spotted still travelling strongly as the field prepared to round the turn for home. Hot favourite Dedigout took over the lead at the top of the straight, but he had no answer when Monksland cruised by and Meade's gelding was eased after the final flight to score by four and a half lengths.

Stan James gave Monksland a quote of 20-1 for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Peter Casey also has big ambitions for Flemenstar following a fine performance in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Novice Chase.

The impressive Navan winner may have headed the early morning markets, but sustained support for the Willie Mullins-trained Lambro saw him sent off the 11-10 favourite.

Andrew Lynch, recording his fourth winner of the weekend, was first to commit for home on Flemenstar and while Lambro did his best to make a race of it, 6-5 chance Flemenstar was too strong.

Paddy Power cut Flemenstar to 20-1 from 33s for the Arkle at Cheltenham, while Stan James introduced Casey's charge at 25-1. Sportsmaster (2-5 favourite) bounced back from his hurdling debut mishap by landing the Racing Again On 21st January Maiden Hurdle for Edward O'Grady.

Hats And Heels bolted up on her first appearance over obstacles in the Annual Membership At Naas Maiden Hurdle.

Having won at Cork and finished third at Navan in the bumper sphere, the Mullins-trained daughter of Flemensfirth was sent off the 5-6 favourite, with the result scarcely ever in doubt.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 9, 2012
Words:341
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