Hurrican Fly returned to winning ways at Punchestown, recording a third consecutive success in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle.

The Willie Mullins-trained star had been so impressive on his belated seasonal reappearance in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January he was sent off at odds-on to land his second Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.

However, the eight-year-old was never travelling with his customary panache at Prestbury Park and had to make do with third.

Sent off the 4-11 favourite to bounce back, the eight-year-old was settled at the rear of the four-runner field for much of the two-mile journey.

He looked somewhat laboured at times, but made progress to take closer order rounding the home turn.

Stablemate Zaidpour was very much on terms approaching the final flight, but it was Hurricane Fly who produced the better jump and he stayed on best to seal he quicker to seal a three-and-a-half-length victory.

Zaidpour was a clear second, with early front-runner Thousand Stars completing a one-two-three for the champion trainer.

The Real Article came home last of the quartet.

Mullins said afterwards: “I was worried about him passing the winning post first time. I thought 'this guy is not enjoying this'.

"I think on reflection he just wasn't enjoying the real sticky ground.

"I thought he had a really hard race in Cheltenham and horses remember those things.

"It will be great for him to get his confidence back having won today and once the ground is better I think he'll be back to himself.

"He went to Cheltenham last year with four runs under his belt and very, very fit.

"Maybe this year he just didn't have that hard fitness that racing gives you and maybe that's what found him out.

"We'll be doing our best next season to get him out early and get runs under his belt and have him fit and well."

Of Zaidpour and Thousand Stars, the trainer said: "I think we'll go back to Auteuil with those two.

"Zaidpour ran a cracker and turning for home I thought maybe he was going to spring a surprise.

"Thousand Stars was full of running at the third-last, but he's had a tough season."

Walsh said: "I'm relieved. From the time we jumped the first hurdle I was never happy. Pure raw ability and guts has won it for him.

"I wouldn't say he's anywhere near the horse that won in Leopardstown (Irish Champion Hurdle), he was more like the horse than ran in Cheltenham.

"When horses run as flat as he ran today, they don't win unless they're exceptional, and he did."

Mullins went on to record his ninth winner of the week as Glens Melody (11-1) made an impressive debut in the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association Fillies Scheme Premier Bumper, with stablemate Tasitiocht second.

Tony Martin's Dedigout benefited from an excellent ride from Davy Russell to emerge victorious in the Cathal Ryan Memorial Champion Novice Hurdle.

There were four in a line running down to the final flight and it was 100-30 chance Dedigout who finished best, coming home with two lengths in hand over British raider Colour Squadron.

Martin said: "He missed every hurdle at Naas but things worked out today.

"He jumps his hurdles big and safe and looks a nice prospect for chasing. He should develop into a nice staying chaser."

Tom Cooper's Lucky William held off Blackstairmountain in a thrilling finish to the Ryanair Novice Chase.

The eight-year-old travelled powerfully under Barry Geraghty and with favourite First Lieutenant and his main market rival Menorah failing to get involved, it was Blackstairmountain who emerged as the danger.

The two fought it out after the final fence and the 4-1 winner kept finding to take the Grade One prize by a length and a half.

Cooper said: "Brilliant, absolutely super. Out of all the runners I thought he was the one who would handle the ground the best and he proved it on the day.

"He's not a Sprinter Sacre and we'll try and avoid him. There should be plenty of other races for him."

Geraghty went on to complete a double on board the Nicky Henderson-trained Oscara Dara in the Star Best For Racing Coverage Novice Hurdle.

The Seven Barrows handler struck with Kid Cassidy in this race 12 months ago and found the target again with this heavily supported 11-8 favourite.

The winner's stable companion Malt Master was three and a half lengths back in second.

Henderson said: "It seems an awful long way to come to find out which is the better of our two horses!

"If you switched the ground you might easily switch the result. They are both lovely horses and they will both go chasing next year."