Pont produces the goods
Pont Alexandre was a mightily impressive winner when running his rivals ragged in the Synergy Security Solutions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Ruby Walsh made all on the 4-7 shot, who was the middle leg of a quickfire treble for trainer Willie Mullins, and victory never looked in doubt.
The race was run in pouring rain, but it did not affect Pont Alexandre, who had made a highly impressive Irish debut in a Grade One at Navan last month. The French import, owned by Rich Ricci, was never challenged and pulled away in the straight for an 11-length romp over Sizing Gold, with Our Vinnie third.
Mullins said: "It was a huge performance to make all in that ground and in that weather and to burn off the horses behind him.
"He just destroyed them with that good jump at the second-last and opened up a gap of four lengths when other horses would be getting tired.
"I'm looking forward to going to Cheltenham with him, but what I'm really looking forward to is sending him over fences. He has size and scope and has a lovely temperament and I'm really looking forward to going novice chasing next season.
"Ballycasey (the winner's stablemate) looks like he might go for the Albert Bartlett, while Pont Alexandre seems to have plenty of speed and will go for the Neptune."
Henry de Bromhead, trainer of runner-up Sizing Gold, said: "It was a lovely run and Andrew (Lynch) felt he rode him a little too cautiously, but having said that the winner looks a serious horse.
"He'll probably get an entry in the two staying novices at Cheltenham and maybe we'll go where the winner (Pont Alexandre) doesn't. Whatever he does this year is a bonus as he is a chaser for next year."
Paddy Power slashed Pont Alexandre to 3-1 favourite from 6-1 for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, while William Hill went 5-1 from 7s.