Asterion Forlonge bridged the gap from maiden company to Grade One class with little fuss to land a game all-the-way success in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The six-year-old made his debut over the smaller obstacles at Thurles in November after a 648-day absence, but Willie Mullins’ charge was primed for the challenge.
Danny Mullins took Asterion Forlonge (4-1) to the front from flag-fall and was closely pursued by the Gordon Elliott-trained Easywork all the way, until he found more on the run to the last.
Pulling clear on the dash to the line, Asterion Forlonge forged nine and a half lengths clear of the 5-4 favourite to stay unbeaten. Mt Leinster, also from the Mullins yard, was third.
Mullins said: “It surprised me and I’m delighted. I had him down as a two-mile-six or three-mile horse.
“The last day he won at Naas was a mile-and-seven. I had a three-mile horse down in Cork and he got beaten, so I said to myself, ‘now I’ve this fella in the wrong race over two’.
“It looks like I’m wrong and he’s a two-miler. He has a huge cruising speed and I said to Danny, ‘go out and make the running, you’re not making it for our other two, you’re making it for yourself so try to get the fractions right’.
“He’s never fast at home, but he obviously covers a huge amount of ground and can keep that gallop up for two miles flat out.
“He looked like he could be a Supreme (Novices’ Hurdle) horse and that was the furthest thing from my mind three weeks ago.
“We’ll see what happens. I think this fella can stay, I think he’s easy enough to ride. I always had him down as a stayer.
“If the owner has something else for the Supreme we can chat it out.”
The winning rider said: “It was a proper good performance. We went an even gallop and picked up well in the straight.
“In fairness to Dermot (Keeling) who looks after him, and looked after Champagne Fever before, he said he reminded him of Champagne Fever.
“We’ll need to step up to get to his level, but that was good and hopefully he’ll keep improving.”
RaceBets cut the winner to 6-1 from 20-1 for the Supreme at Cheltenham in March and to 10-1 from 16s for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.