Vautour gets the job done
Vautour replicated stablemate Faugheen by following up a Cheltenham Festival win at the Punchestown meeting in the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle.
However, it lacked the fireworks of Faugheen's display earlier in the week as the talented five-year-old, winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park, stepped up to two and a half miles for the first time and led all the way.
Noel Meade's Apache Stronghold, forced to miss Cheltenham after a setback, emerged as a big threat at one point running to the last, forcing Ruby Walsh to get serious with the 1-3 favourite, who nevertheless won by three and a half lengths.
Walsh said: "The ground was quick enough at Cheltenham and some of our horses are not moving as well this week having run there. He lacked the same brilliance, but it's to his credit that he was good enough to win."
Owner Rich Ricci, who is also responsible for Faugheen, added: "To win when he wasn't at his best, I'm delighted. I don't buy that Faugheen is a better horse, maybe he was this week. We'll go home and sort it all out."
Mullins said: "It's great to get a win. Jessie (Harrington) had no runner so we had a chance!
"That certainly wasn't anything like his Cheltenham form. Someone said two and a half (miles) was maybe too far, but that can't be right knowing what he did earlier in the season. Maybe the spectacular run left a mark. I didn't think he was as impressive.
"Having been to Cheltenham and been as impressive as he was, you would have said that today was lovely, but we know what he can do. He wasn't right at the beginning of the week, he just wasn't 100 per cent so had a few easy days, maybe everything took its toll.
"Ruby said he was a little bit feely and maybe it was a bit firm at Cheltenham for him. These are all things we have to look at. It will be interesting to see what the handicapper says, but I wouldn't say it was his best performance.
"The one owner has so many nice novices so we'll try and plan for each division next year. We've a lot of thinking to do."