Bapaume takes Grade One honours at Punchestown as Willie Mullins edges closer to trainers' title
Bapaume claimed victory for Willie Mullins in the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown.
Gordon Elliott badly needed Mega Fortune to deliver in the Grade One, but he was eventually run out of the places as 2-1 favourite Bapaume claimed top honours in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Mega Fortune, runner-up in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, was ridden forcefully by Davy Russell, but Bapaume cruised alongside rounding the home turn and kicked clear in the straight.
Landofhopeandglory eventually emerged as his biggest threat after the final flight and got to within a length and a quarter of the winner at the line.
Mega Fortune was beaten to third place by the winner's stablemate Meri Devie.
Walsh said: "He's a tough little horse. He probably got outstayed by Mega Fortune at Leopardstown in January.
"He jumped the last really well and stuck his head out.
"He's only a handy little horse but he's delivered on a very very important day."
Mullins said: "I think we got the tactics right in that race. Mega Fortune was the one to try and beat and it worked out.
"Bapaume has kept his form all season and is a fantastic horse. I'd imagine that he will stay hurdling next season but whether he can step up again we'll see.
"It's tough for four-year-olds the following year."