Hurricane Fly made a tremendous reappearance to deny his old rival Solwhit again in a thrilling finish to the Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
The top-class duo were locked in battle from the final flight but just as at Punchestown in April, Hurricane Fly (11-4) came out on top.
Aitmatov made the running, with the two principals tucked away in midfield, until last year's winner Oscar Dan Dan took it up briefly. Solwhit then made his bid two out but he was soon joined by Hurricane Fly and the pair treated racegoers to a battle royal, with the latter getting home by a length and a half.
Mullins said: "I thought Solwhit would definitely have a fitness edge on this sort of ground. The likes of Punchestown where the ground is good you can get away with it if you're less fit, but on this sort of ground it tells.
"I was more than surprised that he was able to come out with a performance like that today. Paul got him back for a breather. He pulled too hard for the first mile and three-quarters. Paul pulled him back about the third-last and in behind, got a belly full of air into him and put him back into the race again.
"There was so much traffic problems coming round the bend, but he had plenty in the tank and pulled his way through. I couldn't believe it then. I thought he would flatten out about the last, but he jumped it like a professional and put his head down."
Asked about future plans, Mullins went on: "We will see how he comes out of the race. It's so close to Christmas and Leopardstown's Festival Hurdle. We'll see what happens, but if the races are there we might have to run and then try to get another run into him before Cheltenham.
"This horse has been unlucky, he's just not got there (Cheltenham) the last two years. I'm just going to go home and think about it. There's probably the Irish Champion Hurdle as well. Those are the two immediate races that come to mind."
Hurricane Fly is 7-2 joint-favourite with Menorah for the Stan James-sponsored Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.