Energumene returned to his brilliant best to defend his Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase crown with consummate ease for jockey Paul Townend and trainer Willie Mullins.

Only third in the Clarence House Chase behind reopposing pair Editeur Du Gite and Edwardstone, he arrived at the Festival with a point to prove.

Backed into 6-5 favourite as the rain continued to pour throughout the afternoon, his supporters would have had barely a moment of worry as he produced a performance of real dominance to light up a gloomy second day.

Energumene was ridden forwards by Townend, keen to keep tabs on Niall Houlihan on the front-running Editeur Du Gite.

Travelling with real zest, Townend was an image of supreme confidence after four out at the same point Rachael Blackmore aboard Captain Guinness and Edwardstone were beginning to appear in Energumene's wing mirrors.

However, the writing was on the wall for the nine-year-old’s rivals from the moment Energumene poked his nose in front at the third-last and with Editeur Du Gite and Edwardstone soon beaten off, it was left to Captain Guinness to chase home Energumene in vain as Townend asked his mount to stretch clear.

Owned by Brighton football club supremo Tony Bloom, Energumene returned a 10-length winning verdict back to Captain Guinness in second and having given Mullins a first Champion Chase success 12 months ago, he took the master of Closutton’s overall Cheltenham tally to 92 Festival winners.

Townend subsequently picked up a five-day ban for careless riding after allowing his mount to drift left turning into the home straight, which took Blackmore and Captain Guinness off their racing line.

Mullins admitted there was plenty of confidence in the camp beforehand that his charge would reverse the Clarence House form.

He said: "Paul had a very positive frame of mind going out. He said he was going to jump off up there, he thought everyone was going to be very tight and he wanted to be away fast. That's the way the race worked out and he had it right.

"The horse just loved the ground and loved jumping. He was brilliant on the day and Paul was brilliant on him.

"I was way more confident this year than last year because we hadn’t Shishkin to take on and with any improvement from the Clarence House, it was hopefully a case of getting a clear round.

"Paul came home from the Clarence House and he said 'they won’t beat us again’ and the horse’s work and jumping and everything for the last three weeks has been brilliant, so we just had our fingers crossed for a clear round.

"I was hoping to win, but the way he did it was something else. Hopefully he can hold that sort of form for next year."

Following his Clarence House reverse, Mullins suggested Energumene was taken by surprise by the white boards on the fences – but he had no problem at the second attempt.

He added: "He just propped at the first fence in the Clarence House and it just upset him. We had to go to Plan B then, which didn’t work out.

"We’ve schooled him plenty over the white fences and they didn’t worry him today and I’d say he was way sharper coming here, too.

"In showjumping we have different colour poles and some horses don’t like this colour and that colour. Some horses go out and don’t care what colours they see, but some see a different colour from a mile away and it puts them off."

Bloom felt the rain had worked in his horse’s favour.

He said: "We were really confident going in, he’s run a tremendous race. He looked the top horse all the way around so we were delighted, absolutely delighted.

"I had a few quid on, so we’re quids in. We were confident anyway but obviously the rain helps the horse – had it been good ground we would have been a lot less confident. The rain in the last couple of hours has been a big boon."