Appreciate It rules Supreme for Mullins and Townend

Appreciate It lived up to his pre-race billing as he powered to victory in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The 8-11 favourite, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend, outclassed his seven rivals with a dominant display in the Festival curtain-raiser.

It was the start the Irish hoped for with Appreciate It coming home 24 lengths clear of the opposition to give Mullins a seventh success in the race.

As expected, For Pleasure set the pace, but Appreciate It was always nicely in his slipstream. Townend made his move at the third-last, with the seven-year-old taking over from the penultimate obstacle.

From then on, Appreciate It pulled easily clear. His stablemate Blue Lord was his nearest pursuer when he came down at the last. That left Henry de Bromhead’s Ballyadam to claim second place, having made a mistake when hitting the second-last flight.

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For Pleasure stuck to his task admirably to claim third place, two and a quarter lengths further away.

Mullins said: “It’s a great start to the meeting. I couldn’t believe that he won so easy.

“Things were looking a bit tough rounding the last bend in Leopardstown (last month) and we were wondering whether he’d left his best performance of the year there (at Christmas), so we just brought home and freshened him up and it seems to have worked.

“The way he finished the race today he looks as good as any of our previous winners of the race – it was a Vautour-like performance.”

On future plans, he added: “At the start of the season I had him down as a Ballymore horse or an Albert Bartlett horse if that failed, so here I am after winning three Grade Ones over two miles with him – I’m probably the last person to ask where we’ll be going next season!

“I thought he could possibly be an Arkle horse. I never envisaged him as a Champion Hurdle horse and I think we’ll just leave that (decision) until after we go to Punchestown.

“I’ve always had chasing in mind for him, but then I always had chasing in mind for Faugheen, so we’re back to the same argument.

“I’ll have a word with Michael Masterson (owner) and the team at home.”

Runners in the Supreme make their way down the home straight towards the empty grandstands
Runners in the Supreme make their way down the home straight towards the empty grandstands (Michael Steele/PA)

Townend said: “He was very impressive there. Conditions came in his favour and it was a huge performance.

“He’s a simple horse to ride and it’s ideal to have a horse like that to ride in the first race of the week.

“We knew from the bumper here last year that he was very good. He’d been beating the Irish novices at home, so I was quietly confident.

“We know he stays and I suppose the way he jumps makes him look like a quicker horse than he is.”

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