State Man strode to a decisive victory over the gallant Honeysuckle in the Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The 6-5 favourite after five successive victories over hurdles so far, the Willie Mullins-trained chestnut travelled at the head of the field throughout under Paul Townend.

Henry de Bromhead's Honeysuckle galloped in his slipstream until the closing stages under Rachael Blackmore, where she was unable to follow as State Man powered on off the bend and pulled away to cross the line four and three-quarter lengths ahead.

"Paul surprised me when he came into the parade ring and I asked him what he was going to do and he said he was going to make it," said Mullins.

"He didn't see much to make it in the race so I said 'OK, do that'. It worked out, the horse is not used to being in front, but he jumped well enough in front and Paul thought he was a bit idle in front as well.

"He did everything right and you couldn't ask any more."

When asked about the improvement in his jumping he added: "A lot of people forget that he won the County Hurdle and you don't win that with sloppy jumping.

"In Punchestown it might have been a slow race and when it was slow he just took his time.

"When he has to be sharp he’s well able to jump very quickly. He jumped like a Champion Hurdler, I thought, all the way down the back.

"Paul asked some big questions and he came up every time. I was very happy.

"It’s nice to have a horse like him and fingers crossed that he stays right."

Meanwhile, Honeysuckle could have her Cheltenham swansong in the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle, with owner Kenny Alexander steering away from the Champion Hurdle.

Alexander said: "Age catches up with us all – one of the young pretenders has overtaken her and there’s one in England.

"Is she as good as she was? No, she’s not as good as she was. I wouldn’t overreact after her first run, she’s still very, very high class but she’s not quite as good as she was. She is nine now and she ran her heart out, she ran a blinder.

"We will definitely not be taking on Constitution Hill after that, because she is so brave and I would fear what would happen. We’re not running around for place money so it’s up to Henry, if he wants to chuck it now. I’ve always said 'just get her out now, safe and sound’ and maybe the time has come.

"I know the horse is so brave and Rachael doesn’t muck about, we’d run to win and I’d dread anything happening to her now and I don’t think we can beat Constitution Hill – I’m not sure anything can.

"I thought she ran a blinder, but I’ll leave it to Henry and Rachael, whatever they say will go. I’d love to win another Mares’ and go out in a blaze of glory, but I don’t want anything to happen to her now."