Mullins dominates at Leopardstown
Willie Mullins once again dominated the training honours at Leopardstown with a 123-1 four-timer on Hennessy day.
Not only did he land the big one with Sir Des Champs but added two other Grade Ones, with Boston Bob and Champagne Fever, as well as scoring with Tennis Cap, giving Paul Townend a treble, and all are Cheltenham bound.
Champagne Fever returned to form when making all the running in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
Last season's Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner had run a listless race last time out, but this time the 2-1 favourite brushed aside Bright New Dawn, his only serious challenger, and galloped strongly to the line to score by a length and three-quarters.
"He's back to himself, which is a huge relief after Naas. We just fiddled around a bit with him since then and we waited until this week to give him two bits of work," said Mullins.
"He really impressed in those two bits, especially in his work on Tuesday. It wouldn't be a problem going out in trip with him but we'll stick to the Supreme Novices' Hurdle."
Boston Bob got up in the very last stride to win a thrilling race for the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase.
The Graham Wylie-owned eight-year-old looked beaten when he dropped back to fourth after tracking the pace-setting Lyreen Legend but rallied in amazing fashion on the run to the line.
Paul Carberry appeared to have brought Texas Jack with a perfectly-timed run and although he got the better of Lord Windermere and Lyreen Legend, he simply had no answer to the late dash of the 6-4 favourite.
Mullins said: "It was a very brave performance from the horse and we changed tactics from Navan where he jumped very big and carefully.
"The drier ground at Cheltenham will be a huge help and I think he'll improve through the spring and on to Punchestown.
"In my head I was thinking of the Jewson (at Cheltenham) for him but there is four or five weeks to go and certainly if it was soft I wouldn't mind going for the Jewson, but it does look like he wants a longer trip.
"I'm not sure he's yet back to his best form from last year but he is coming back."
Tennis Cap (6-1) joined the Mullins squad for Prestbury Park with a cosy success by three and a half lengths in the paddypower.com iphone Fast Bet Handicap Hurdle.
"He has probably booked his ticket for Cheltenham now for the either the County or Coral Hurdle but the County may be more his job," said the County Carlow trainer.
Our Conor (100-30) strengthened his Cheltenham claims when completing a hat-trick over jumps with an impressive display to take the Spring Juvenile Hurdle.
The Dessie Hughes-trained four-year-old is now a 6-1 chance for the JCB Triumph Hurdle after powering to a five-length win over long-time leader Diakali two out.
Hughes said: "He is the real deal and is definitely stronger. I was still surprised the way he won, he hardly came off the bridle.
"He finished his race well and it is great to see him staying so well, that's what he'll need for his next race."
Salsify avenged two defeats by Tammys Hill when getting up in the dying strides to pip his old rival in the Raymond Smith Memorial Hunters Chase.
The two 3-1 joint-favourites pulled away after the last with Salsify finding extra in the final 50 yards to win by a neck for trainer Rodger Sweeney and his son, amateur Colman.
"He is coming along nicely now and is timing it just right. He'll get a week off after this and then we'll aim him at Cheltenham," said the trainer.
"Hopefully he'll come on another bit and he's at the same stage as he was last year."
Summer Star (7-1) came with a devastating burst to lift the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Handicap Hurdle for trainer Ted Walsh and his jockey daughter Katie.
"She has done everything right and got a great ride. At the second-last, I thought the other horse (Norah Star) had flown but she came home well," said the trainer.