Energumene maintained his unbeaten record over jumps with a dominant display in the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork.
The seven-year-old enjoyed a faultless novice campaign over fences last term, claiming Grade One wins at Leopardstown and Punchestown either side of missing the Arkle at Cheltenham due to a minor setback.
Energumene was sent off favourite to make a successful reappearance in a Grade Two contest his trainer Willie Mullins has dominated over the years and ultimately did so without much fuss.
Energumene (1/3f) is a comfortable winner of the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase | Racing from @punchestownrace and @corkracecourse live on @RTE2 and @RTEPlayer now: https://t.co/AZlEpmDpcs pic.twitter.com/aSuJXqVgBi— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) December 5, 2021
Travelling strongly and jumping soundly at the head of affairs under Sean O'Keeffe, the son of Denham Red comfortably drew eight and a half lengths clear of Daly Tiger, with Sizing Pottsie third
Cheltenham Festival heroine Concertista made a successful transition to fences in the O'Flynn Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase at Cork.
A 12-length winner at Prestbury Park in 2020, Willie Mullins' seven-year-old was strongly fancied to double her Festival tally in last season's Mares' Hurdle, but was narrowly denied by Black Tears.
Concertista was a beaten favourite again at the Punchestown Festival, but bounced back to winning ways on her chasing debut and seasonal reappearance under Sean O'Keeffe.
Concertista (13/8) wins the Grade 2 Mares' Novice Chase at @corkracecourse. Racing from there and @punchestownrace live on @RTE2 and @RTEPlayer now, with the feature John Durkan memorial chase coming up shortly https://t.co/AZlEpmDpcs pic.twitter.com/q8P8hxWWLR— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) December 5, 2021
With 10-11 favourite Magic Daze ensuring a strong pace, Mullins' 13-8 chance jumped well in behind before delivering her challenge in the straight.
Jeremys Flame also arrived on the scene to set up a thrilling climax, with Concertista holding her off by half a length and Magic Daze just over a length further behind in third.
Earlier, top-class bumper horse Kilcruit suffered a shock defeat on his hurdling debut.
The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old won at the Dublin Racing Festival and the Punchestown Festival last season, as well as filling the runner-up spot behind stablemate Sir Gerhard in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
The Stowaway gelding was a prohibitively priced 1-14 favourite to make a successful reappearance in division one of the Follow Us On Instagram Maiden Hurdle.
But having raced alongside Henry de Bromhead's Largy Debut for much of the way, Kilcruit was ultimately left trailing in the 6-1 shot’s wake, with 10 lengths separating them at the line.
Mullins’ assistant, David Casey, said: "Sean (O’Keeffe, jockey) said he didn’t travel through the race and was beaten early. We have no other excuse than that at the moment anyway.
"He said he jumped well but then was flat at the third-last and that’s why he was missing them. We’ll have a look and see."
Davey Roche, assistant to De Bromhead, said of the winner: "He had been working really well coming here and we thought he was a nice horse.
"It was probably an ideal race for Kilcruit getting a lead off us, but our fellow jumps and travels.
"Where we go after this, I don’t know. He is a good horse I’d say – he jumps and travels and once they do that, you’re half way there."