Appreciate It lived up to his pre-race billing as he powered to victory in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The 8-11 favourite, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend, outclassed his seven rivals with a dominant display in the Festival curtain-raiser. 

It was the start the Irish hoped for with Appreciate It coming home 24 lengths clear of the opposition to give Mullins a seventh success in the race. 

As expected, For Pleasure set the pace, but Appreciate It was always nicely in his slipstream. Townend made his move at the third-last, with the seven-year-old taking over from the penultimate obstacle.

From then on, Appreciate It pulled easily clear. His stablemate Blue Lord was his nearest pursuer when he came down at the last. That left Henry de Bromhead's Ballyadam to claim second place, having made a mistake when hitting the second-last flight.

For Pleasure stuck to his task admirably to claim third place, two and a quarter lengths further away.

After his seventh success in the race, Mullins told ITV Racing: "He is quite big, he looks like a three-mile chaser – so the fact that he's here winning championship races over two miles astounds me.

"It was unfortunate to have a faller at the last, but Appreciate It was awesome. Paul was exuding confidence all the way down the hill – it was just text-book stuff from Paul and the horse."

Appreciate It did not please everyone when remaining unbeaten over hurdles by beating Ballyadam at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

But no one could quibble with the manner of this victory, and Townend said: "That was more like it from this lad. A cracking performance, wasn’t it?

"After a performance like that, it probably opens that door (to next year’s Champion Hurdle) – but he’s bred like a chaser, and when we started jumping hurdles he jumped like a chaser."

As for the absence of crowds this year, the winning jockey added: "It was different, very different, but we’re so lucky to be here and to be able to take part in the sport that we love.

"It was very different – but I could hear the Irish boys in the corner."