Willie Mullins looks to have another exciting novice hurdler on his hands as 8/15 favourite Next Destination kept on tenaciously to land the G1 Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle.

Fourth to the ill-fated Fayonagh in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the six-year-old son of Dubai Destination is now unbeaten in three starts over hurdles following another commanding performance at Naas.

Ridden by Paul Townend, the Malcolm Denmark-owned gelding always travelled well in the two mile and four furlong event and whilst made to work hard in the closing stages by Cracking Smart, Next Destination kept on tenaciously to land the G1 event by a length.

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The Cheltenham Festival looks the principal aim now for the Irish-bred gelding but Closutton handler Mullins is keen to get one more run into his charge ahead of The Festival in March, with Leopardstown’s Dublin Festival next month (February 3-4) identified as a potential target.

A delighted Mullins said:

He’s improving all the time. It was a very slow-run race and, tactically, it was a lot different than we thought it would be. His jumping held up under pressure over the last two and he was in front far enough to withstand the late challenge of the second horse.

I’d imagine we’ll find a race at the Dublin Festival at Leopardstown if it’s not too soon.

Looking ahead to a Cheltenham Festival target, Mullins seemed to be swaying towards the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half-miles rather than the three mile Albert Bartlett.

He looks like a Ballymore or an Albert Bartlett horse. I think he can settle well enough. Today he didn’t because it was such a slow pace but I think in a Cheltenham-style race he’ll settle and he could run in either of those two races. The Ballymore would be the one you would think of immediately. He looks a real chaser but he’s well able to hurdle this year anyway.

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