THE highly-regarded Mount Benbulben finally came of age over fences with a superb performance in the Growise Champion Novice Chase under Danny Mullins.
Gordon Elliott's eight-year-old had won just two of his previous eight starts over the larger obstacles, with a series of jumping issues stalling his progress.
However, on this occasion it was a number of his rivals who were struggling in the jumping department, with the early fall of Dedigout taking British raider Harry Topper out of the race, while Boston Bob came to grief later in the contest.
Mount Benbulben (14-1) fenced far more fluently than has often been the case and kicked clear in the home straight to take the Grade One prize by an emphatic 22 lengths.
The Dessie Hughes-trained pair of Tofino Bay and Lyreen Legend were second and third respectively, but National Hunt Chase scorer Back In Focus was disappointing.
Mullins turned 21 today and was sung 'Happy Birthday' on his way back into the winner's enclosure, having clinched the first Grade One of his riding career.
Elliott said: "We always thought he was a good horse, but his jumping has been his trouble. Everyone has done a great job at home.
"He's had his critics, but he's got an engine.
"Obviously he has to go right-handed, so he'll have a few options, but I'll have to talk to Barry (Connell, owner) about it."
Paddy Power quote Mount Benbulben at 20-1 for next season's King George VI Chase at Kempton.