Cheltenham Festival runner-up Billaway got back to winning ways in the Bluegrass Horse Feeds Hunters Chase at Down Royal.
In a hotly-contested race that is usually run on Boxing Day, Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old eventually ran out a six-and-a-half-length winner, justifying 5-4 favouritism under Patrick Mullins.
However, he had briefly looked in trouble as both Winged Leader and Aloneamongmillions appeared to be travelling better before Billaway got a second wind.
Billaway was a 10-length second to It Came To Pass at Cheltenham in March and was cut to 5-1 favourite from 7-1 for the same event next year by Paddy Power.
“Again today he seemed to hit a flat spot and then came back on it,” said the winning rider.
“His jumping is getting much quicker. In Cheltenham last year we weren’t losing ground, but we weren’t making any ground at every fence whereas the winner was.
“I think the extra experience he has this year will shorten the gap, hopefully.
“I think he is still improving and I think he is a better horse this year than last year. I think his jumping is getting slicker. That’s what he needed to do, so he is doing it.
“There’s no Leopardstown, so he’ll go to Thurles at the end of January.”