Monksland leads Arctic Fire away from the final hurdle
©Healy Racing Photos
By Alan Magee
Arctic Fire performed with great credit without success at the highest level last term but he put that right when gaining a deserved victory on his seasonal reappearance in a thrilling renewal of the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.
All five runners in this Grade 2 event were reluctant to make the running, and the pace was sedate early on.
Monksland eventually put some pace into the 2m4f event, and Sean Flanagan's mount was about three lengths up when making a mistake at the last.
This gave Ruby Walsh the opportunity he needed on the 4/6 favourite, andArctic Fire responded gamely getting up close home to score by half a length.
Taglietelle was nearly four lengths further back in third, while Carlingford Lough dropped out in the straight to trail home in fourth.
Winning trainer Willie Mullins said, "He was gutsy. He blew up, and hopefully he will improve from that and we can get him back to the form he was in last year.
"I'm not sure where he will go next. Nick (Peacock, owner) mentioned the Fighting Fifth and we'll have to have a think about it." <Arctic Fire is generally unchanged for the Champion Hurdle, with Paddy Power and Ladbrokes going 12/1 and Betfair quoting last year's runner-up at 10/1.
Monksland is 16/1 with sponsors Ladbrokes for the World Hurdle, and trainer Noel Meade said, "I'm happy with him but also a bit disappointed not to win. If he'd jumped the last well he might have won.
"I'm not sure what we will do with him now. He's schooled over fences and jumps very well but we could stay over hurdles and aim at the three-mile races. We'll have to have a good think about it."