Pandorama rose to the top of the Irish staying division with a decisive victory in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
Long regarded by connections as a horse of some potential and impressive in novice hurdles and chases, Pandorama still had questions to answer after being pulled up in last month’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
But he answered every one of them, finishing six lengths clear of British raider Money Trix and the giant Joncol.
Pandorama, who was giving jockey Paul Carberry a fourth victory in the Christmas highlight, sat just off the habitual leader The Listener and looked primed to pounce before jumping the third-last slightly slowly.
Quickly recovering, he led before the last and quickened right away to earn quotes of around 16-1 for the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“We are back on track and will aim for the (Irish) Hennessy back here if he stays right,” said trainer Noel Meade.
“We are still dreaming of the Gold Cup. He worked very well at Dundalk last Thursday and had some good horses behind him.
“We’ll enjoy today. We know he goes left-handed and that was only his fifth run over fences so he is still improving.
“I wouldn’t run him on good ground. It has to be yielding or softer.”
Pandorama was sent off the 7-2 joint-favourite along with Cooldine, who was pulled-up, while fellow Willie Mullins’ inmate Kempes unseated Tony McCoy, who must pass a doctor if he is to ride at Newbury on Wednesday.
Money Trix finished a much closer second to What A Friend in the Lexus 12 months earlier and trainer Nicky Richards would love to see him go one place better.
“He was probably the first off the bridle down the back but he stayed on well,” said the master of Greystoke.
“I hope he does land one before the end of the day and the obvious race is to come back here for the Hennessy as he does like to get soft ground.
“But we’re happy and the winner’s a very good horse.”
There was still reason for Mullins and jockey Paul Townend to smile, starting when French recruit So Young (7-4 favourite) came 16 lengths clear hard-held in the Madigans Maiden Hurdle.
Mullins’ Mourad then swooped late in the Grade Two woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle.
Fourth to stablemate Hurricane Fly in the Hatton’s Grace and a model of consistency, the 7-4 favourite hardly gave his supporters a moment of worry.
Powerstation may have been in control turning in but Townend just needed to give the signal and Mourad upped a gear to pull two lengths clear.
“The race conditions suited him, although I was afraid of the heavy ground,” admitted Mullins.
“He will go for the stayers’ hurdle at Cheltenham but will maybe have one or two runs before then if I can find a race like that.
“Paul gave him a smashing ride and he said that the ground was very heavy which wouldn’t have suited Mourad at all.”
Mourad was clipped to 14-1 from 20s by the sponsors for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Jessica Harrington’s Bostons Angel enjoyed the step up to three miles to strike at 14-1 in the Grade One Fort Leney Novice Chase.
A distant fourth over a shorter trip in the Drinmore Chase last time, he needed to show plenty of determination to get past Meade’s front-running 3-1 favourite Thegreatjohnbrowne at the top of the straight.
In charge by the last, Robbie Power had just enough in the locker to evade the closing pack, headed by Quito De La Roque and Western Charmer.
Harrington said: “He couldn’t go with them over two miles, four furlongs in the Drinmore but Robert (Power) jumped off and said to go for three miles.
“He stays very well and jumps well for a horse who jumped so badly over hurdles. He’ll go on better ground too.
“He doesn’t have a quick pick-up but he is a galloper and today was a slog.”