Notre Pere ploughed through the mud to claim the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup and earn a 10-1 quote with totesport for the equivalent race at Cheltenham next March.
Persistent rain through the morning turned conditions to the Jim Dreaper-trained eight-year-old’s advantage, and he relished the ground in registering a 13-length success.
The Grade One-winning novice flourished through the winter and the Welsh National hero had plenty of supporters as he attempted to go one better than when second in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup here in February.
Andrew Lynch had the heavily-backed 15-8 favourite in the vanguard throughout and the pair started to put daylight between themselves and the rest of the field heading towards three out.
There was no danger of Notre Pere faltering and he galloped on to beat the rock-solid Schindlers Hunt, with Scotsirish taking third and Carl Llewellyn’s Roll Along faring best of the Brits in fourth.
Dreaper, who last won the race in 1994 with Merry Gale, said: “We will have to stop having these long gaps!
“The ground came right for him and although it may not have helped the other guys, we had him bang on for this.
“I was very happy with him beforehand and he has done it really well.
“It didn’t suit us to go on when we did, but he wouldn’t have to do that in a Gold Cup.
“He would have a chance in a heavy-ground Gold Cup. He would run in the race on yielding but to have any chance of winning it would have to be soft.
“He is rated in the 160s whereas Kauto Star and Denman are in the 170s, but he is the best I have got and the best there is in Ireland.”
Dunguib emulated Cousin Vinny 12 months earlier and followed up his Cheltenham bumper success with an ultra-impressive victory in the Paddy Power Champion INH Flat Race.
The pair are the only horses to complete the double, and Philip Fenton’s highly talented six-year-old is the new 3-1 favourite with Boylesports for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
After finishing second at this meeting 12 months ago, Dunguib has rattled off four wins on the bounce and took the field apart when storming up the Cheltenham hill.
And he repeated the feat as the 9-10 favourite in the Grade One bumper in Co. Kildare, with Brian O’Connell allowing his mount to accelerate away inside the final furlong, leaving Sweeps Hill bringing home the remainder in a distant second place.
Fenton said: “I was looking for excuses coming here but it turns out that he was in the same form as before Cheltenham.
“He had two weeks off after Cheltenham and soon put the weight back on that he lost there, and there were seven weeks between the two races.
“He is a superstar of a horse and is well able to jump. We have already schooled him and he will do plenty more before he makes an appearance.
“If all goes well and fits into place then I would love to take him back to Cheltenham for the two-mile novice – the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.”
Willie Mullins joined forces with his nephew Emmet to claim the Madra Dog Food 21st Anniversary Novice Hurdle courtesy of 7-4 favourite The Midnight Club.
The eight-year-old had finished in the frame in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last month, and bettered that by flying late between Sam Adams and Healys Bar on the run-in to strike by three-quarters of a length.
Mullins landed the Grand National four years ago with Hedgehunter, and believes he has another legitimate long-term contender on his hands.
He said: “I am really looking forward to sending him chasing. He loves a trip and soft ground, and he could become a National horse one day.”
Mullins’ J’y Vole (5-1) also relished the rain-softened ground as she returned to winning ways in the Ulster Bank Handicap Chase.
The six-year-old was a Grade One-winning novice last term but had only run twice since this meeting 12 months ago, finishing fourth when last seen at Gowran.
However, she was back to her best as she asserted coming down to the last two fences and although she did not get very high at the final obstacle, she had enough in reserve for a 14-length success in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Mullins said: “The longer trip seemed to suit her, and we will probably stick to that next season.
“She may go to Auteuil next month.”
Mullins made it a treble and Walsh a double as 5-4 favourite Jayo ran out a fairly comfortable winner of the Three.ie Novice Chase.