Cilaos Emery confirmed himself a likely Arkle Trophy contender when making a successful start to his career over fences at Gowran Park.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old won at the highest level as a novice hurdler a couple of seasons ago and raced just twice last term, most recently filling the runner-up spot in the 2017 Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Despite his 391-day absence, Cilaos Emery was the 11-8 favourite for the PMF Beginners Chase and fenced fluently throughout in the hands of Ruby Walsh – who was bidding for a quick double following his victory aboard Invitation Only in the preceding Thyestes Chase.
The market leader moved powerfully into the home straight and eventually got the better of Impact Factor by four lengths.
Cilaos Emery was cut to 9-1 from 14-1 for the Arkle at Cheltenham in March by RaceBets, with Lalor the ante-post favourite at around 5-1.
Mullins, who was also responsible for the third home Duc Des Genievres, said: “My two jockeys came in and said they went down over the first three fences as fast as they’d go in any Arkle or Champion Chase.
“The flew over the first three and I was happy with the way my two jumped. It sounded like a really good test so it was good for Cilaos Emery to come out and be able to win starting off like that. I’m very pleased.
“It means he’ll get an entry in the Arkle, and Duc Des Genievres will too.
“I wouldn’t think he’d go to the Dublin Racing Festival as it’s next week and it would be too soon.
“I’d imagine we’ll go straight there at this stage of the season. I’ll see if I can squeeze one in, but the third day of Cheltenham is this day in seven weeks so it’s going to be very hard, especially after that race as it was a very hard race.
“They went flat to the boards for most of the race. We’ll see how he comes out of it.”
Following the successes of Invitation Only and Cilaos Emery, Mullins completed a treble as Blue Sari (15-8) made a hugely impressive racecourse debut in the concluding bumper, coming home 11 lengths clear under the trainer’s son, Patrick.
Paddy Power make the four-year-old a 10-1 shot for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
Mullins senior said: “That was very good. We thought he’d stay all right, but we weren’t sure he had any speed.
“He certainly is way better on grass than he is at home on our gallops. It looked a top-notch performance.
“We might look at the four-year-old bumper at Limerick. I don’t know if there is much around the country for Cheltenham so he could very possibly go there, but normally with four-year-olds we’d go to Limerick.”
David Mullins steered Peter Fahey’s The Big Dog (evens) to a six-length triumph in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle.
The winning rider said: “He’s a nice horse. He did everything right the last day in a good race and today the race sort of fell apart on the soft ground and he was just left on his own.
“He’s a lot better than he showed there. You’d like to be riding him in a Thyestes some day, he’s that sort of horse – a three mile chaser.”
Robert Tyner and Phillip Enright combined to land the Langton House Hotel Handicap Hurdle with 8-1 shot Spare Brakes.
James Barcoe’s Allez Kal also struck gold at 8-1 in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, with Cathal Landers the successful pilot.
Barcoe said: “She’s run a couple of nice races lately and she’s improved for it. She actually has the Gowran colours so it’s the day for it.
“It’s great to have a winner any day, but I suppose today is more special.”