Pont Alexandre looks a future star for trainer Willie Mullins after he ran out a mightily impressive winner of the Synergy Security Solutions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.
On a day when stablemate Hurricane Fly stole the show in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle, Pont Alexandre confirmed his arrival on the scene with a stylish display.
He had looked a bit special with a highly-convincing successful first run for Mullins and owner Rich Ricci in a Grade One at Navan last month and the five-year-old reinforced that impression when making all the running in the pouring rain under Ruby Walsh.
The 4-7 shot was never challenged and pulled away in the straight for an 11-length romp over Sizing Gold with Our Vinnie third. It was a performance that had Cheltenham written all over it.
"It was a huge performance to make all in that ground and in that weather and to burn off the horses behind him," said Mullins.
"He just destroyed them with that good jump at the second last and opened up a gap of four lengths when other horses would be getting tired.
"I'm looking forward to going to Cheltenham with him but what I'm really looking forward to is sending him over fences.
"Ballycasey (the winner's stablemate) looks like he might go for the Albert Bartlett and while Pont Alexandre seems to have plenty of speed and will go for the Neptune."
Mullins also struck with second string Glens Melody (9-2) in the Frank Ward Solicitors Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle with the better-fancied stablemate 2-5 favourite Zuzka only third.
Walsh was on the wrong one as Paul Townend produced Glens Melody to lead at the last and power away to win by four and a half lengths from Jennies Jewel.
"We decided to ride her more positively today and it seems to have worked. We'll keep her to those mares' races and she'd have no problem over two and a half miles," said Mullins.
The trainer completed a four-timer on the day when Rupert Lamb (5-2) made all to give Walsh a treble in the Leopardstown Beginners' Chase.
"I think that's his trip and he'd like better ground but it's hard to see him being an Arkle Chase horse. He'll probably stay at home for the likes of Fairyhouse and Punchestown," said Mullins.
Legal Exit (12-1) bounced back from a fall on his debut over jumps to foil the hot-pot Urano in the Frank Conroy Memorial Maiden Hurdle.
Barry Geraghty brought the Jim Culloty-trained six-year-old to head the Mullins-trained Urano after a good jump at the final flight and bounded clear of the 1-2 favourite on the run to the line to score by four lengths.
Culloty said: "I've always thought the world of him and I view this year as a stepping stone as he is really a chaser for next year."
The Colm Murphy-trained Shariyan (7-2 favourite) survived a blunder at the final flight to follow up last month's course win in the Tote Price Promise Handicap Hurdle under Robbie Power by a length and a half from Sammy Black.
"We were hoping for a bit of luck in running and we were lucky at the last (hurdle) but credit to him for getting his momentum back," said Murphy.
Tony Martin's Blackmail (6-4 favourite) could be bound for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham following a smooth victory in the Donohoe Marquees (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race in the hands of amateur Robbie McNamara.
"I'll have a chat with John (Breslin, owner) but I think he's plenty good enough to run in the Cheltenham Bumper," said Martin.
Tony McCoy got on the scoresheet with a last-gasp triumph on Competitive Edge (100-30 favourite) by a head from Quartetto in the Sandyford Handicap Chase for trainer Conor O'Dwyer.