Impaire Et Passe and Paul Townend put in a blistering performance to lead home a Willie Mullins 1-2-3 in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
The unbeaten five-year-old proved much too good for his rivals and quickened clear to win by over six lengths at the line from stablemate Gaelic Warrior under Patrick Mullins.
Early leader Champ Kiely rounded off the placings for the Mullins team, while Good Land was back in fourth for Barry Connell and eventual favourite Hermes Allen – part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson – had to settle for fifth.
It was Champ Kiely and Hermes Allen who made the early running with a steady gallop, meaning all of the key contenders were well in with a shout turning for home.
But it was the former who jumped out to his right, giving Impaire Et Passe and Townend a dream run up the inside and the combo weren’t for stopping, showing too much speed for Gaelic Warrior who stayed on strongly towards the line.
The victory gave Mullins a sixth success in the race, while Townend sealed a 25th Cheltenham Festival win with plenty of big chances to come later in the week.
‘I was very impressed – wow!’
Mullins said after the race: “That was good, I was very impressed. When he got through, the change of pace coming down the last – wow.
“I think that was just his fourth run of his life so there’s improvement there. I’m looking at him as a chaser, but you have to ask yourself would you stay hurdling? You have to look at Champion Hurdles and things.
“Yesterday I was telling Michael Buckley (owner of Constitution Hill) that we were going to have go off and shop again to buy one to beat him, but maybe we have one here. His jumping is great, so maybe we have one.”
He added: “Gaelic Warrior, we took out his ear plugs out on the way to the start and he didn’t settle as well as Patrick (Mullins) wanted him to. Patrick did say he could go up to three miles, so maybe he’s a chaser down the line.
“Champ Kiely surprised me by staying on so well. Danny (Mullins) said he hung terribly down the back, we’ll see if he had a problem, but he’s another who will make a nice chaser down the line.”