Francs takes the cash at Clonmel
Willie Mullins is targeting a run at Fairyhouse over the Easter period with Roi Des Francs following his battling success in the Grade Three Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle at Clonmel.
The 2-1 favourite, one of three runners in the race for owners Gigginstown House Stud, justified his price tag at the head of the market when knuckling down well under Bryan Cooper to take the contest by two and a quarter lengths from Fine Article.
It was a second successive victory in the two-mile-six-furlong race for the owner, trainer and jockey combination, after they teamed up to take last year's renewal with Don Poli, who subsequently went on to take the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
"He's an improving sort. I was afraid that the track might be too sharp but he jumps and stays," said Mullins.
"The Michael Purcell Hurdle at Thurles might come too soon and he might wait for the Easter Festival at Fairyhouse for a two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle, although I'd prefer to go out in trip to three miles.
"He's every inch a chaser in the making."
While Roi Des Francs is not due to feature in Mullins' raiding party for next month's Festival, a trip to Prestbury Park could be on the cards for Turban, who made it a treble for the trainer when coming with a late run to foil Rubi Light in the Patsy O'Brien Memorial Chase.
Given a patient ride by Ruby Walsh, the 5-2 second-favourite picked off the long-time leader with a bold jump at the last before quickening clear up the short run-in to score by three and a half lengths and register his first victory of the campaign.
The victory in the two-and-a-half-mile heat marked the first time the eight-year-old had scored over that kind of distance.
"It was an experiment going out to this trip, but his pedigree suggests he could," said Mullins.
"Dropping him out seemed to help get his confidence back and I wouldn't rule out a handicap at Cheltenham, but he likes soft and might need a wet week.
"We'll also look at the Topham Chase at Aintree."
Argentino (7-2) kicked off Mullins' treble, as well as doubles for Cooper and Gigginstown, in the Surehaul Race Day Maiden Hurdle.
Cooper said: "He took a while to get his jumping together, but got it together today. I made too much use of him at Thurles the last day, but was more patient today and used his speed in the latter part of the race.
"He's a real summer horse and likes the drying ground - hopefully he can pick up a few more races."