Duc Des Genievres ran out a facile winner of the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham.
With trainer Willie Mullins having already teamed up with Ruby Walsh to land the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Klassical Dream, Duc Des Genievres was a 5-1 shot to follow up in the hands of Paul Townend.
The result was scarcely in doubt, with the six-year-old grey fencing fluently throughout the two-mile contest in behind the pacesetting Knocknanuss, before taking over the lead still full of running before the home turn.
Clondaw Castle briefly looked a threat, but soon weakened as Duc Des Genievres found another gear in the straight to leave his rivals trailing in his wake.
Joseph O’Brien’s Us And Them came home best of the rest, but passed the post some 13 lengths behind the dominant winner. Terence O’Brien’s Articulum completed a clean sweep for Ireland in third.
Glen Forsa unseated Jonathan Burke early on, while 100-30 favourite Hardline never threatened to land a telling blow.
Mullins said: “This rain has just come in time. I was moaning at 10am that we’d had none of what was forecast, but now it has come and it has worked the oracle, it made a huge difference to him. He won as easily as any of mine ever.
“Once the two horses fell going away from the stands, I was wondering why Paul moved out wide, but he must have seen something.
“The next thing there was a bit of a schmozzle and then he ended up in third place when I thought he was going to be out the back, and he just kept him together from there. Everything went right for him.
“It feels very good to win the first two races considering where I was with them two or three weeks ago, we were trying to get runs into them, but we just couldn’t.
“It looks like we’ve got two nice horses here, but we’ve nice ones at home that never got out.
“It’s fantastic to have two up at this stage, but there’s a lot more to happen over the next four days. We had a good weekend last weekend in Ireland which gave us a little bit of confidence coming here.
“It seems good so far, but there’s a long way to go yet, what with the weather and everything else.”
Townend said: “The plan was to leave them at it, but this horse just travelled so well and jumped his way there. I was able to take him back down the hill and it’s not too often you can do that here.
“He’s learnt from every run. It’s just brilliant to get a winner here.”
O’Brien was “over the moon” with the performance of Articulum.
He said: “I’m over the moon with him. It’s my first runner here. I thought he was in great form and that he would run well.
“Obviously Willie Mullins has won the first and his has hosed up there. I was hoping he was that good, but you never know. He won a three-runner race in Naas and you hoped that would be good form, but you are not sure.
“He was working well at home and I was pretty confident he would run well. I was a little bit worried when he put his legs in the water. He was always just struggling after that and lost his confidence jumping.
“David (Mullins) filled him up and he ran on best to the line.”