Triumph fav Far West wins Cheltenham opener
Paul Nicholls & Ruby Walsh combined to take the Cheltenham opener with Far West
(Healy Racing Photos)
However although the victory of the 2/9 favourite over Handazan was enough to confirm his status as market-leader for the juvenile championship back at the track in March, Far West's backers wouldn't necessarily have been feeling happy throughout as Ruby Walsh was niggling away aboard the winner when the runner-up tried to quicken away on the home turn.
With outsider-of-three Mr Lando an early casualty, the remaining two runners were able to potter around at a relatively sedate pace, but the testing conditions still took their toll and Handazan tired markedly in the closing stages, finishing 19 lengths behind the winner.
Now as short as 5/1 for the Triumph Hurdle with one firm, Sky Bet kept him unchanged at 8/1 on the strength of this performance.
"He could do with a stronger gallop as he's a real stayer," said Nicholls.
"He's hardly done anything since his last run and will maybe come back here in January and then go for the Triumph."
The mother and son team of Mag and Danny Mullins combined to take the opening contest (the Christmas Party Raceday At Fairyhouse Mares Maiden Hurdle) at Fairyhouse this afternoon with Oscars Joy.