Blue Lord narrowly got the better of Coeur Sublime in a thrilling battle for the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase at Punchestown.
Having disappointed slightly in the Arkle at Cheltenham when only third behind Edwardstone, he gained compensation in the colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
The race said plenty for Willie Mullins’ strength in the division when, despite the short-priced morning favourite Gentleman De Mee being a non-runner, he was still able to field Saint Sam, Haut En Couleurs and the eventual winner.
It was Saint Sam who took them along with Rachael Blackmore keeping tabs on him on Coeur Sublime while Arkle runner-up Gabynako and Blue Lord watched on.
Saint Sam blew his chance with a mistake at the second-last and by then Gabynako was outpaced and although Paul Townend looked confident on Blue Lord, Blackmore kept her mount going and only went down by a head to the 2-1 favourite.
Mullins has now won seven of the eight Grade Ones at the meeting so far.
“I was concentrating more on the horse in front, Saint Sam, and how he was jumping. He was fiddling a few of the fences and I was wondering if there was enough pace in front for this horse and Haut En Couleurs as well,” said Mullins.
“They quickened a bit about the fourth-last and I thought Saint Sam was running a cracker until he genuflected at the second-last.
“I couldn’t believe how much Paul pulled out of our fellow, I thought Coeur Sublime had stolen the race between the last two.
“Paul said to me he didn’t want to appear in front too soon because at Leopardstown when he appeared in front the horse looked all over the place and indeed he did that again today.
“Once he gets to the front he just thinks the race is over and he loses concentration. Paul timed it perfectly.”
Elsewhere, the 15-year-old Ballybroker Bridge won the Mongey Communications La Touch Cup for the second time – and was immediately retired by trainer Peter Maher.