Galopin Des Champs blew his rivals away with an impressive display to win the Grade One Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
The ex-French five-year-old was having just his fifth start since joining the formidable Willie Mullins team and looks an exciting prospect.
Galopin Des Champs was one of the three Cheltenham Festival winners in the nine-runner field, having taken the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle last month, and he had no trouble proving his worth at the top level.
Stattler, stablemate of the winner, made the running – but Galopin Des Champs was always travelling easily for Paul Townend and went on after jumping the second-last flight.
The 13-8 favourite stormed clear to score by 12 lengths. Gentlemansgame took second place by a length and a half from Stattler.
Townend said: “It was straightforward. He settled lovely, but you have to for a three-mile race like that.
“I was in front a hell of a lot earlier than I anticipated – I won’t say too soon because he’s won – though definitely a lot sooner than I thought I would be.”
Mullins said: “He’s very slick over his hurdles. I said to Paul ‘what did you think?’ and he said he could be a Stayers’ Hurdle candidate. I like to go chasing with them quickly. We’ll see.”
The Closutton handler completed a Grade One double when Kilcruit (11-8) reversed Cheltenham bumper form with stablemate Sir Gerhard.
The latter got the verdict by half a length there, but he was only third this time as Kilcruit turned the tables in emphatic fashion in the ITM – Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race.
Lake Winnipesaukee soon built up an early lead, but he was caught well over half a mile out with Kilcruit enjoying a dream run on the rail to get into contention under Derek O’Connor.
Sir Gerhard ranged alongside but was soon brushed aside by Kilcruit (11-8), who went on to score by four and three-quarter lengths from O’toole. Sir Gerhard (5-6 favourite) was another length and three-quarters back in third.
Mullins said: “He looked pretty good there. He glided down to the start. He loved that ground and when you consider how well he handled really heavy ground at Navan in the middle of winter and then win like that – this horse could be anything.
“We’ve had the family for years and years and I think this could be the last one out of it. My mother (breeder) will be happy this evening, and it’s great for Mags and Michael Masterson (owners).”
He added of the Masterson-owned Appreciate It, who was brilliant in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham: “Appreciate It will be back for next season. He just had a small setback which we couldn’t get right for this week.”