Impaire Et Passe an emphatic winner in Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown

Impaire Et Passe, left, with Paul Townend up, jumps the last on their way to winning the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle, from second place High Definition, right, with JJ Slevin up, during day four of the Punchestown Festival© SPORTSFILE

Gary Carson

Impaire Et Passe showed a neat turn of foot and powered to victory in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle for jockey Paul Townend and trainer Willie Mullins.

The five-year-old ran well within himself and Townend rode the Cheltenham's Ballymore winner with supreme poise.

Send off a 1-3 favourite against just four rivals, he sat third throughout much of the extended two miles and three furlongs of the Grade One contest.

Though Impaire Et Passe made a novicey mistake six out, which saw him with plenty of ground to make up, Townend appeared to ooze confidence as stablemate Champ Kiely and the Joseph O'Brien-trained High Definition set the pace.

There was still plenty to do approaching two out and for a brief moment, High Definition and JJ Slevin looked set to cause a shock.

But Townend had plenty up his sleeve and the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned gelding soon cruised upsides and went to the front on the bridle after being given a reminder that this was not simply a piece of work.

Jumping clear at the last, he stormed home to record a seven-and-a-half length success, with High Definition hanging on for second, despite stumbling when hitting the running rail after jumping the last.

Mullins was far from happy with the performance, however.

He said: "He didn't impress me at all, I was delighted he won, but throughout the race he wasn't impressing me.

"He looked like he wasn't enjoying it and maybe Cheltenham took much more out of him than we thought.

"At home he was on fire and maybe I did too much with him, because he was going so well.

"It's hard to say something went wrong when you win by seven and-a half lengths.

"Maybe he loves the hill in Cheltenham, he just got going up the hill, whereas today is a flat track. I'll have a quick chat with Paul later on and see what he thought.

"Turning for home, I wouldn't have backed him, so to win after that just means that he has a huge engine, but he wasn't really in love with what he was doing today, whether it was the ground or what I don't know.

"I think we'll freshen him up now. I was thinking maybe of going to France but I won't, I think I'll just put him away."

Townend echoed the sentiments, hinting his charge needed waking up.

He said: "It was not as straightforward as I was hoping. Maybe it was just because I was left on my own. I think everyone could see that I was never really happy throughout the race.

"When I got upsides them, he came on the bridle for me and his class shone through then."

He added: "He'll have no problem jumping a fence, but I'd say it will depend on what the horse across the water (Constitution Hill) is doing as well!"

Anthony Bromley, racing representative of owners Isaac Souede and Simon Munir and the man who purchases most of their horses, intimated that while the five-year-old has the size to be a chaser, the move to larger obstacles might be put on hold while the education process continues.

"He was quite switched off in the race and Paul had to wind him up a little bit turning but he picked up," noted Bromley.

"To be fair, some of his races haven't always been impressive. In the Moscow Flyer (at Punchestown), he wasn't 'Wow,' and that's why they went up in trip. He just needs to be woken up. I think there's so much talent under the bonnet and I think he's still a work in progress.

"He's a big frame of a horse. He only had one bumper run last year and that's his fourth hurdle run. I think the plan might be to stay hurdling and learn a bit more. But, the great Willie will tell us. In Willie we trust!

"You worry turning in slightly, you have a little moment, and suddenly by the line it's clear and he's winning easing down. He's got great potential."

The 'Double Green' colours had already enjoyed Grade One success at the meeting, with El Fabiolo on Thursday.

"There's a lot of nice youngsters at Willie's and it's so exciting," Bromley said.

"Isaac and Simon get a lot of fun from it. They love the Dublin Racing Festival, they love Cheltenham but Punchestown has really worked and they've been here all week, and to get two nice big winners - proper big winners - and horses that look like they might be superstars, is brilliant.

"And that's what it's all about, isn't it? They put a lot into it. They've got a lot of horses and we've kissed a lot of frogs. But these two are exciting."