Briar Hill continues education over hurdles with facile Navan win
Briar Hill made all the running when beating his sole rival Azorian in the Navan Novice Hurdle at the County Meath track.
Ruby Walsh decided to set the pace on the Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old and despite having to do the donkey work, Briar Hill's class shone through.
Azorian tried to put it to the Cheltenham Champion Bumper scorer, who had made a winning debut over hurdles at Wexford four weeks ago.
However, the 1-4 shot found more when challenged and while it was slightly harder work than the odds suggested, a big leap at the last helped him pull four and three-quarter lengths clear.
The race was reduced to a match with the late withdrawals of the Noel Meade-trained pair Apache Stronghold and Very Wood.
Mullins said: "It was a tactical race and we weren't sure if Azorian would jump off in front or drop in. Our fella proved in Wexford that he was able to jump in front.
"He's a lovely relaxed individual and he stays. He could go out to three miles if we want. I'd imagine we'll be looking at two and a half miles or longer. He seems to have loads of stamina.
"Christmas might come a bit too soon and we could possibly look at the Slaney Hurdle at Naas in January.
"He's closely related to Boston Bob. Last year he showed nothing at home but this year he's showing at home what he's doing on the track."
Mullins admitted he has a seriously strong hand in the novice hurdle division.
"This is definitely the best crop of novice hurdlers I've ever had. They are all fit and healthy and hopefully we can keep them like that," he said.
Walsh told At The Races: "He only does the bare minimum and I suppose that's a good thing. Horses that aren't exhuberant last longer.
"He was very idle in front all the way.
"I thought I was riding the best horse so I tried to keep it as simple as I could. We went a good gallop but Davy (Russell) had an awkward time behind me. Azorian didn't look a straightforward ride.
"The way he races you probably wouldn't drop back in trip but he's not slow. I suppose we'll leave every option open. I'll leave it up to Willie. He'll find the races for him."