Hercule Du Seuil clung on to complete his five-timer in the BetVictor Proud Sponsors Of Irish Racing Novice Chase at Punchestown.
The six-year-old has not looked back since suffering an odds-on reverse on his fencing debut in early May, winning at Ballinrobe, Killarney, Galway and Roscommon in the space of four months.
Carrying the colours of JP McManus, Hercule Du Seuil was the 4-11 favourite to notch a third successive Grade Three success for trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Mark Walsh – and while he did ultimately get the job done, his supporters were made to sweat before collecting their winnings.
For much of two-and-a-quarter-mile contest it looked like a straight duel, with the market leader and Lucid Dreams engaging in a nip-and-tuck tussle before Hercule Du Seuil went clear from the third-last.
However, just when it looked like he was home for all money, Senecia came from the clouds to throw down a late but serious challenge and there was only a neck between the pair at the line.
Mullins said: “Lucid Dreams kept him honest the whole way and Mark had to change to plan B and drop him in behind. He jumped well when Mark needed him and it’s a great performance to win five in a row.
“If the weather stays dry we might get another run into him and we could then give him a mid-season break and come back in the spring.
“I’d rather keep him to the minimum trip if I could but he can go out to two and a half. Mark felt maybe he didn’t want the ground as soft as it was today.”
With last season’s Champion Bumper hero A Dream To Share a significant non-runner, Fascile Mode the most of what looked a gilt-edged opportunity to make a successful start to his jumping career in the BetVictor Predictor Maiden Hurdle.
The Tom Mullins-trained five-year-old looked a potential bumper star himself after winning on his Leopardstown debut last Christmas, but was well beaten at the Dublin Racing Festival and the Cheltenham Festival and disappointed again at Fairyhouse in the spring.
Michael O’Sullivan’s mount was the 1-2 favourite for his return in a race that has been won by three subsequent Cheltenham winners in the past seven years in Labaik (2016), Samcro (2017) and Marine Nationale (2022).
While he made a couple of minor errors in the jumping department, he showed his class by pulling 12 lengths clear of his rivals from the final flight.
“It’s great to get that job done and I was expecting a good run. I was disappointed he made that mistake at the third-last but it was his first day at school,” said Mullins.
“Since he got here today he was gawking everywhere and was on his toes for some reason. He settled well in the race which was great, but he was having a good look at everything and I’d say he would have learned a lot. I’m very happy with him.
“There is a novice in Cheltenham at the November meeting or the Royal Bond (at Fairyhouse) but his jumping will have to sharpen up. He’s brilliant at home and has done a lot of schooling.”