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Last Updated: 12/02/12 4:42pm
Quel Esprit: Gives Willie Mullins an eighth win in the Hennessy Gold Cup
5-4 favourite Quel Esprit was a taking winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.
The grey impressed with a fluent round of jumping as he made most of the running.
Turning in it was clear he had his rivals at full stretch although Roberto Goldback emerged as a threat after the last.
However Walsh never had a real moment of concern and Quel Esprit gave trainer Mullins an eighth win in the Grade One contest by two lengths.
Walsh said: "He jumped well, he travelled well. We went a really good gallop and it was a good performance.
"He likes to go a really good gallop. He was unlucky when he fell in his races last year. When we schooled the novices 18 months ago he was the best jumper.
"He's probably a 160 horse which leaves him 14lb behind Long Run and Kauto Star. They are in the mid 170s. He has another stone to improve to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup.
"There are other races than that and this is a huge pot and a great race in its own right.
"Willie thinks he's entitled to run in the Gold Cup. He's won a Hennessy so he has to run in the Gold Cup.
"I was fairly confident jumping the third-last and when what I thought was China Rock ranged alongside me two out I had plenty of horse left and I was very happy there."
Mullins said: "He had a wind operation during the summer and maybe that was the difference, when he was coming under pressure last year in those big races his wind might have been catching him.
"He galloped all the way to the line today and jumped. Ruby was keen to make use of his jumping. he jumped fantastic, especially over the last four. That was the key to winning the race. He wasn't afraid to ask him for big ones.
"He didn't let the pace drop at any stage during the race and kept stretching them with his jumping. They went a real good gallop and his jumping won it for him.
"He made one mistake down the back, but other than that his jumping was magnificent.
"He has a huge long stride and now that he has confidence in his jumping he looks a Grade One horse now. He's putting it all together at last.
"I've been aiming him for the Gold Cup all year. He's probably around a 25-1 shot for it. Seldom in your life do you have a horse good enough to compete in that race.
"When you get one you take it and the Gold cup throws up surprises over the years. I hope I can improve him a bit more between now and then."
Stan James cut Quel Esprit to 20-1 from 25-1s for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup next month. Paddy Power and Sky Bet go 16-1 from 25-1 and Coral 14-1 from 25s.