Faugheen strolls to Champion glory
Faugheen lived up to the hype with a flawless display in the Queally Group Celebrating 35 Years In Naas Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
The seven-year-old took his record to a perfect 10 out of 10 to give Willie Mullins yet another Grade One winner.
Ruby Walsh was allowed to dictate matters at his own pace and did not appear to be going much of a gallop until quickening the tempo four from home, after which it was pretty much plain sailing.
Arctic Fire and Paul Townend tried to close coming out of the back straight, but as soon as Walsh gave Faugheen (1-6 favourite) a squeeze the response was immediate and the race was over, with the winning distance eight lengths.
"That was a good performance. Ruby didn't hang around and kept applying the pressure from the front. It was a gutsy ride," said Mullins.
"On the book he had one horse to beat and that was Arctic Fire. He wasn't on the bridle at any stage, though, and when he's not on the bridle you know he's going some pace.
"Arctic Fire is a fair opponent and Ruby wasn't going to let him into it and use his speed. He was just afraid of Arctic Fire's speed and piled it on from the front to dampen his fire.
"From a mile out he started to apply it and I was wondering if he'd crack from so far out, but he knew what he had underneath him. His jumping is better going faster. Ruby kept asking the questions and at every hurdle he picked up.
"He's done it now in year one and we'll let him tell us how good he can be. Our Conor looked invincible when he won the Triumph, but fate can go against you.
"I believe in him, but he has to stand the test of time. He's very, very good. We'll see now if the handicapper puts him past Hurricane Fly."
Walsh added: "As Paul Townend pulled up there, he was making the sound of a jet and that is what Faugheen is. He is incredible."