The Irish Arkle could be next on the agenda for Energumene after he maintained his unbeaten record over fences with an impressive display at Naas.
Having already won a point-to-point, a bumper and on his sole start over hurdles, the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old made a smart start to his novice-chasing campaign when registering a wide-margin victory at Gowran Park in November.
The French-bred gelding faced a tougher test in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase, with Henry de Bromhead’s high-class performer Captain Guinness among his three rivals, but he ultimately got the job done in fine style.
Sent straight to the lead by Paul Townend, 10-11 favourite Energumene jumped accurately throughout to keep the pressure on those in behind.
Captain Guinness closed the gap rounding the home turn and briefly looked set to make a race of it, but the market leader asserted between the final two fences and pulled clear on the run-in to score by eight and a half lengths.
The winner’s stablemate Blackbow was a long way behind in third.
Mullins said of the winner: “That was very impressive, and his jumping was a key factor. He’s got a great method to jump.
“I brought him back to two miles to see if he would be as effective. He loves jumping.
“That was very testing going, and (he was) making all his own running. Paul just gave him a breather turning for home, and he’s picked up again. I was very taken with it.
“I’d imagine we will go down the two-mile route now, and the Arkle at Leopardstown would look the place to go.”
Paddy Power cut Energumene to 5-1 from 12-1 for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March, making him their clear second-favourite behind Shishkin.
Mullins went on to double his tally with 9-4 favourite Belle Metal in the Rushe’s Supervalu (Pro/Am) Flat Race, ridden by Jody Townend.
“We will be looking to up her in grade, although the owners may be keen to sell, so she could be in different colours the next day,” the champion trainer added.
Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore also combined for a double on the card, with the Grade One success of Bob Olinger preceded by the comfortable victory of Epson Du Houx in the Eastcoast Seafood And Gouldings Hardware Handicap Chase.
The 9-4 favourite travelled strongly to the lead in the home straight and passed the post with six and a half lengths in hand.
“We didn’t get our own way in front, and it was a little bit messy like that, but I was impressed with him – and hopefully there are a few more days in him,” said Blackmore.
Amateur rider Harry Swan, son of the multiple champion jockey Charlie Swan, struck gold on his very first ride over hurdles aboard the Timmy Hyde-trained On Eagles Wings.
The 18-year-old, riding his fourth winner overall, steered the 2-1 shot to a two-and-a-half-length verdict from Captain Kangaroo in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.
Hyde said: “On his bumper form I thought he had a good chance, but you never know what you are coming up against in these races from the big stables. I was very happy with him.”
Charlie Swan added: “Timmy, myself and Harry have all now won on our first ride over hurdles.”
Joseph O’Brien’s Miss Pernickety justified 4-7 favouritism in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase under JJ Slevin.