Willie Mullins’ hotpot Min strengthened his grip on the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with an effortless win in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday.
Well-backed for the Cheltenham Festival opener before he had even set foot on a racecourse for Mullins, he had impressed at this track last month.
Stepped up in class to Grade Two company, he was following the successful footsteps of stablemates Vautour and Douvan who also took this race before glory at the Festival in March.
For the first couple of furlongs Ruby Walsh tracked Tongie but soon sent the 1-7 favourite into a lead which he was never to relinquish.
Attribution tried to make a race of it turning into the straight, but Walsh pressed the button approaching the last and shot clear to win by nine and a half lengths.
While the race lacked any strength in depth, it was hard not to be taken with his performance and not surprisingly the bookmakers took evasive action for Cheltenham, with Betfred going 7-4 for the Supreme.
Walsh said: ‘‘I didn’t have much of a say in that, he took a fair grip and was pinging his hurdles so I couldn’t pull him back.
“I slowed it up running to the second-last, hoping to get a breath into him but they were on my tail pretty quickly so I had to go again. But he quickened up really impressively and won comfortably.
“He’s learning as he goes, but you never want to get left behind at Cheltenham anyway as you’ll never get back into the race.
“I think he’s like Vautour and Douvan, raw and immature, but he’s doing his talking on the track.”
Mullins said: ‘‘You could not ask for any more, and he’s living up to all the chat about him. He does his best work at home on better ground, so to do that on this ground is a big plus.
“I don’t know if he will run again before Cheltenham, probably not. He’s a very easy ride at home, but he seems to grow horns or wings on the race track. He took a hard hold today.
“I was very impressed that he could pull so hard early on, then Ruby gave him a breather and when the other two came to him I said ‘we’ll see what’s in the tank now’. But he just eased right away.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved