Energumene provided Willie Mullins with yet another Grade One winner at the Punchestown Festival when making all the running in the Ryanair Novice Chase.
Having added to his tally in the top-level events when Klassical Dream defied a lengthy absence in the Stayers Hurdle, this success looked likely a long way from home.
Energumene was denied a clash with Shishkin in the Arkle at Cheltenham due to a small setback, but he made a swift recovery and he was sent off the 2-5 favourite to beat a field of just three rivals.
One of those was his stablemate, Janadil, a Grade One winner last time out, while Captain Guinness this time took a lead having tried to set the pace at Cheltenham.
He possibly had no say in that matter though, as Energumene set off at a rare lick under Paul Townend and jumping well, just eased further clear.
By the home straight Captain Guinness was running on empty and eventually unseated Rachael Blackmore, but Janadil had already claimed second by then.
Energumene came home 16 lengths clear and Paddy Power immediately cut him to 6-1 from 12s for next year’s Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Mullins said: “He seems to be back to himself. He was very slick early on, met a few wrong down the back, but once he got his eye in again over the last four, he was brilliant.
“It was a great performance to finish up the season.
“It was a nice surprise to get him back because I thought when we had to scratch him from Cheltenham, we’d miss Punchestown.
“He just made a very quick recovery. We were hoping to get him to Fairyhouse but that didn’t work, so I said we’d be better off taking our time and coming here and that paid off.”
When asked if he would get further, Mullins added: “He’s won over two and a half miles and has won a point-to-point, the only reason I came back was because he was so slick jumping.
“I thought he’d be a two-and-a-half-mile horse, more like Janidil, but when he gets his jumping right, he’s more like a hurdler over fences.
“I’d imagine we’ll go the Champion Chase route first and we’ll see how that goes. He’s a nice one for (owner) Tony Bloom to have.”
Mullins helped JP McManus celebrate his 100th winner at the Punchestown Festival when Capodanno (11-2 favourite) ran out an easy winner of the Conway Piling Handicap Hurdle for Jody McGarvey.
“He was impressive, he’s a fine, big horse and looks a real chaser in the making. I think a bit of nicer ground just made a huge difference to him,” said Mullins.
“He’s one we’ll be looking forward to going over fences with. I think they way he jumped today if he can replicate that over fences there will be a queue of jockeys to ride him.”
Mullins took both Grade One heats on the card with Klassical Dream and Energumene, before Gauloise made it a four-timer for the handler as she proved too strong in the Close Brothers Mares Novice Hurdle.
“She was very good. I was disappointed with her in Cheltenham and I’ve been expecting a performance like that out of her all year,” said Mullins.
“I think I probably wasn’t hard enough on her. I was quite hard on her coming here and it seems to have paid off.
“She’s a tough mare and is probably tougher than a lot of mares. I think she’s going to improve away next season.
“I thought early on in her career she could be top class and now I think she’s back on track again.
“I’m delighted for (owner) Kenny Alexander and she’s another nice mare to add to his portfolio.”
Dysart Dynamo capped the day in fine fashion for the Mullins team as he cantered home under the trainer’s son Patrick in the closing Grant Thornton (C & G) INH Flat Race.
The trainer was winning his 13th race of the week with the evens favourite.
Anthony Honeyball had gone close to a Punchestown Festival winner a couple of times in the past with his stable stalwart Regal Encore, but went one better with Sully D’Oc (6-1) in the Pigsback.com Handicap Chase.
Ridden by rising star of the weighing room Simon Torrens, the seven-year-old was proving his durability having run with credit at both Cheltenham and Aintree.
“He’s always been a lovely horse, but this season has made a man of him as he’s also done Cheltenham and Aintree,” said Honeyball.
“Richie McLernon needs a mention as he’s done a lovely job with him. He ran well at Aintree and I thought coming here might freshen him up as he was on his way to Martinstown anyway.
“I mentioned the cheekpieces to Frank (Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus) so we put them on – whether they made a difference, I don’t know.
“We’ve hit the bar here a few times with Regal Encore and Cresswell Breeze, so I’m delighted. Watching the way that race was run, I think we could be back in Ireland with him at some stage.”
Jiving Jerry landed a gamble in the opening Specialist Joinery Group Handicap Hurdle for Cathal Landers and trainer James Barcoe.
Having been available at 20-1 overnight, he won by half a length at 11-2.
“That’s brilliant and the horse deserved it as he’s been very consistent all year. He’s an easy horse to train, he turns up,” said Barcoe.
“That’s his third win and it’s for my most important owner, my wife, and it was my niece who led him up, so it’s great.”