Empire strikes back at Naas
Empire Of Dirt ran out a decisive winner of the Irish Racing Writers Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle at Naas.
Tony Martin's Quickpick Vic was the 2/1 favourite to claim the Listed prize, taking a significant drop in class having finished fourth behind Vautour and The Tullow Tank in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last month.
The market leader moved into contention travelling smoothly at the top of the home straight, but his challenge petered out and he was back-pedalling by the time he unseated Paul Carberry at the final flight.
Colm Murphy's 5/1 shot Empire Of Dirt, second to Faugheen at Navan in December, was sent to the lead heading down the back straight by Bryan Cooper and quickened up well after jumping two from home.
Fellow Gigginstown House Stud-owned runner The Game Changer tried to throw down a challenge on the run-in, but Empire Of Dirt was always doing enough and passed the post two lengths to the good.
Murphy said: "He's threatened to win a good one and he's a horse that's had a few hiccups, but he stuck his head out well there.
"Whatever he does before going chasing over three miles is a bonus.
"All the family want a trip and hopefully he'll keep improving."
Father-son combination Tony and Danny Mullins teamed up to claim the Naas Supporters Handicap Hurdle with 11-1 shot Sammy Black.
Rory O'Moore swiftly built up a long lead over 16 rivals and at one stage appeared to have nicked the race, as he still held a healthy advantage rounding the turn for home.
However, he began to tread water between the final two flights and while he was still in front jumping the last, it was inevitable he was going to be caught.
Sammy Black stayed on well in the colours of Barry Connell to take the spoils by a length and three-quarters, with Hazariban second and the gallant Rory O'Moore in third.
The winning trainer said: "We haven't had many runners this winter. The recession seems to have hit me harder than anyone.
"It's nice to see they are back running well again - I think our last six runners have all been in the money and it's nice to get a winner.
"This horse, without being a really classy horse, is very reliable and I think he's been the closest to Un De Sceaux (beaten six lengths) since he came to Ireland.
"Off his present mark (113), he's capable of winning again."