Willie Mullins tips Don Poli for future Gold Cup success
Willie Mullins believes Don Poli could develop into a future Cheltenham Gold Cup contender after the exciting youngster ground out victory in an attritional renewal of the Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Winner of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle at last season's Cheltenham Festival, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned five-year-old made a successful start to his chasing career at Gowran Park and was the 9-4 favourite stepped up to Grade One level over fences.
Bryan Cooper's mount moved to the front in the straight and although the Noel Meade-trained Apache Stronghold threw down a strong challenge after the final fence, Don Poli saw out the punishing three miles best to prevail by three lengths.
Mullins said: "The penny is dropping all the time. He's a lovely horse with lots of ability.
"I nominated the four-miler (National Hunt Chase) for him, but we'll have to talk to Mr O'Leary (Michael, owner) as Gigginstown have a huge amount of staying chasers.
"They may have others for the RSA but he could be a possibility. He'll get an entry for all the novices at Cheltenham.
"I've been saying all week it was probably the best Topaz Chase that's ever been run here.
"We might come back in trip with him and see what he can do. The Moriarty is a possibility and he'll get an entry.
"He is improving all the time and he could be anything - he could be a Gold Cup horse."
Don Poli is now the 6-1 second favourite with RaceBets for the RSA Chase.
Cooper said: "This fellow is a bit special, he's really that good. We don't really know what's underneath the bonnet yet. He's a top-class horse."
Dermot Weld enjoyed a double with Windsor Park landing the Copper Face Jacks Maiden Hurdle under Davy Russell and Vigil collecting the bumper in the hands of Finny Maguire.
Windsor Park was the 6-4 favourite for his assignment and saw off Royal Caviar by two and a half lengths, while Vigil was the 5-6 favourite and battled to victory over Bellshill.
The delayed Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase brought Leopardstown's four-day Christmas Festival to a close, with victory going to Fran Flood's 7-1 shot Down Under, ridden by Johnny Burke.