Andy Dufresne got back on the winning trail with a hard-fought success in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
Leading owner JP McManus went to £330,000 to secure the six-year-old after he impressed in his sole point-to-point – and he lived up to his tall reputation with hugely impressive displays on his first two starts under Rules for Gordon Elliott at Down Royal and Navan.
He lost his aura of invincibility when suffering a shock defeat in last month’s Navan Novice Hurdle – having to make do with the runner-up spot behind Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition – but was an 8-15 favourite to bounce back in this two-mile Grade Two.
Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness was his nearest market rival and went to the front with a circuit to run, with Andy Dufresne tracking him in the hands of Mark Walsh.
The pair had it between them rounding the home turn – and while there was little to choose between them jumping the final flight, Andy Dufresne had just enough in the tank and won the battle by three-quarters of a length.
Anything Will Do was 15 lengths back in third.
Elliott said: “He got beat by a good horse of Paul Nolan’s the last day in Navan, where he probably outstayed us, but that was more like it today.
“Mark said the inside track was tight enough for him here over two miles. He took a bit of organising around the last bend, but when he straightened up he jumped the last well.”
Andy Dufresne was cut to 12-1 from 16-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham by Paddy Power. Whether he ends up in the Festival curtain-raiser or the longer Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle remains to be seen.
“He galloped to the line and has won over two and a half. I’m not sure what the plans are, and I’ll have to talk to the lads,” the Cullentra handler added.
“I still don’t think two and half is a problem to him – he stays well. The way he moves he’ll probably be better on better ground.”
De Bromhead was delighted with the performance of the runner-up, who was making just his second career start after making an impressive debut at Navan four weeks ago.
De Bromhead said: “He got a bit strong (keen), but galloped away and jumped well. I’m delighted for a horse only having his second run.
“He was quite free and was entitled to get found out a little bit – and it didn’t help that he got in a bit close to the last. Obviously Andy Dufresne is a very good horse, so we’re delighted with the run.
“He’s in the Grade One at the Dublin Racing Festival. It may be a bit close, but we’ll see how he is.”