Chacun Pour Soi wins to earn tag of next Mullins superstar
Chacun Pour Soi looks another potential superstar for Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci after winning the Ryanair Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival on just his second start in Ireland.
Having created a huge impression on his first run for new connections at Naas, the seven-year-old was in much deeper waters this time in the hottest novice chase of the season.
It contained Philip Hobbs' JLT winner Defi Du Seuil, Arkle hero Duc Des Genievres, Aintree scorer Ornua and Voix Du Reve, a Grade One winner last time out.
By the second last, Duc Des Genievres had taken over from Ornua but he was tracked by stablemate Chacun Pour Soi and Robbie Power, replacing the now retired Ruby Walsh.
Richard Johnson was content to sit in behind on Defi Du Seuil to delay his challenge until as late as possible. Yet despite getting close at the last, Chacun Pour Soi - who had defied an absence of more than 1000 days to win last time out - went on again to win by four and a quarter lengths.
Paddy Power were suitably impressed, and quickly made him a 5-1 chance for next year's Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Even the usually circumspect Mullins was surprised at the ease of his success, and said: "I think we've seen a real racehorse.
"He's had lots of niggly little problems, which kept him off for three years. He came right around Naas time and he won his beginners chase very well.
"He's all the time shown me he could be a real racehorse. To turn in today with a JLT winner on one side and an Arkle winner on the other side - and Robbie said he was cantering. That shows us that he's a real horse for the future.
"I said to Robbie 'ride him around the outside and don't get involved in a race with any of the other horses because he's had so few runs - but if he's as good as we think he is God knows what will happen'.
"I just thought about getting here today and haven't thought any further than that. He's just matured now, and hopefully it will get better next year. I won't make any plans now about where he'll start next year."
Meanwhile, the Betdaq Champion Hurdle is the headline act on day four.
Buveur D'air and Apple's Jade both look to redeem their reputations. The former shocked when falling in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham prior to having to settle for second at the Aintree Festival over two and a half miles. Apple's Jade flopped at Cheltenham but managed third over three miles at Aintree.
Petit Mouchoir started his career when winning a Kirkistown point to point on his debut.
Melon started the season by winning at last year's Down Royal Festival and was the intended mount of Ruby Walsh before the champion's shock retirement on Wednesday.
Trained by Willie Mullins - who also runs Wicklow Brave, winner of the race in 2017 - Melon finished a distant runner-up in the Champion Hurdle before falling at Aintree, but over today's track and distance can add to the trainer's tally.
The Champion Hunterchase has brought success for local trainers in recent years and Balnaslow - winner in 2017 - bids for a repeat for Templepatrick handler Graham McKeever while likely favourite Ucello Conti, trained by Gordon Elliott, is a regular on the local points circuit. Burning Ambition impressed when winning at Down Royal on St Patrick's Day, likewise Stand Up And Fight, a winner at the Lisburn venue on Boxing Day when champion rider Derek O'Connor described the horse as "a bit special". However, Burning Ambition gets the vote.
Battleoverdoyen, trained by Gerry Cosgrave at Banbridge, won a Templepatrick point to point on his debut and was sold to Gordon Elliott for £235,000.
The former local horse again takes on the festival winner City Island, which is a worthy favourite.