Nice To Meet could potentially have the St. James’ Place Festival Hunter Chase at next year’s Cheltenham Festival as his big aim for next season after he ran out an easy winner of the Beasley Engineering Hunter Chase at Listowel.
Just touched off by Willie Mullins’ Annamix in a Hunter Chase at Killarney three weeks earlier, Mikey O’Connor’s charge was sent off as the one to beat following that narrow defeat.
As had been the case at Killarney, Tiernan Power again bounced him out from the front, with the seven-year-old making every inch of the running.
The strong-travelling Woodbrook Boy and Cara McGoldrick did join the favourite at the fourth-last fence and raced alongside him until Power asked the Sans Frontieres gelding to quicken early in the home straight.
The response from his mount was immediate and he swiftly put the race to bed, crossing the line 11 lengths clear of the Ballingarry older maiden winner Lanziano who rallied late to grab the second spot from a fading Woodbrook Boy.
The victory was a first win for Nice To Meet since he had won his maiden at Dromahane 14 months earlier, although he had finished second on no fewer than six occasions since that opening success including when chasing home subsequent champion hunter chaser Its On The Line.
“Tiernan had ridden him in Harley’s and I bought him from Harley Dunne,” O’Connor said. “I met Harley here one day and Harley said to me, ‘look he is a nice horse, we rushed him to win a four-year-old, it didn’t happen and then we ran him over hurdles and he has taken time but if you give him time, this is a good horse’. In fairness to Harley he was on the ball and full marks to him.
“I bided my time with him last year, he won a point-to-point and only ran the once over fences [on the track]. He was beaten at Tipperary by Its On The Line when the ground was overwatered. The last day in Killarney he was only beaten a short head by Patrick and Willie [with Annamix] and his form is top class.
“He has a bright future over fences, the only doubt that I had for him here was that he was in Doncaster last week and didn’t make his reserve, he was very late in the evening when he did get in. I had a lot of customers for him but if you came out and fired a shot you wouldn’t hit him, it was just too late.
“I am delighted for Greg Coleman and his parents; they are great supporters of mine. They are great people, win, loose or draw they are always smiling – they will enjoy it anyway.
“I had hoped to get him qualified for the Foxhunters at Cheltenham, but he always had holding ground, he wants top of the ground, come the bigger meetings in the hunter chases, they are always on Good ground and he is just a different horse on it. He just failed to qualify for it, but it was probably for luck as it might not have been an ideal thing for him to go as a seven-year-old this year, whereas now he is qualified for next year and we might aim that road.”