Merciless Min dominates at Leopardstown
Min boosted his reputation with a sparkling performance in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
The anticipated head-to-head between Willie Mullins' much-hyped horse and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Identity Thief failed to materialise after Identity Thief jumped poorly before pulling up at halfway, and Bryan Cooper quickly dismounted.
Ruby Walsh controlled matters from the front on the 4-5 favourite Min, whose jumping was fast and fluent, and he careered away after flicking through the last to beat Ordinary World by nine lengths.
Mullins said: "He left the rest of them for dead. Jumping is the name of the game and he jumped from fence to fence and anything that tried to lie up with him, they just couldn't handle it.
"He didn't have respect for his hurdles and ran too free, but he has a lot more respect for fences which helps him to settle. That probably helps to give him more pace at the end of his races now.
"He's matured more over the summer as well."
RaceBets cut Min to 3-1 from 6-1 for the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, with Altior the 6-4 favourite.
Mullins added: "He looks Arkle material, although he could go out in trip. We know that Yorkhill can go out in trip, and there is American Tom as well."
Walsh was seriously impressed by the performance, comparing Min to five-time King George winner and dual Gold Cup hero Kauto Star.
He said: "I didn't know what to expect coming here. He'd been working grand without burning up the gallop, but he was that way last year, too.
"The ground was definitely drier than I thought it was going to be and I was impressed with him. I didn't think we went slow, he jumped super and I love the way he quickened up.
"His novice hurdle form was good and obviously he just found Altior too good (in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham).
"He's an easier horse to ride over fences. He has a look where he's going over fences and he's a bit more manageable.
"I was happy with him in Navan but he impressed me today. He reminds me of Kauto.
"I'd imagine with the pace he shows you wouldn't need to be going much further at the minute, even though he probably could."