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Last Updated: 27/01/13 2:48pm
Pont Alexandre: Booked his place at the Cheltenham Festival
Pont Alexandre produced a stylish display in the Synergy Security Solutions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Willie Mullins suffered odds-on reverses in the first two races on the card but his 4/7 favourite made no mistake in the Grade Two contest that was won by stablemate Boston Bob 12 months ago.
Ruby Walsh jumped the five year old out into an early lead from Our Vinnie, Sizing Gold and Anonis and the order barely changed until the field approached three out.
Anonis, who had yet to be asked for an effort, fell at that flight and badly hampered Seefood in the process, leaving Our Vinnie and Sizing Gold clear with the favourite.
Our Vinnie was ridden along to try and close but was soon struggling with Sizing Gold failing to bridge the gap as Walsh asked Pont Alexandre to go and win his race.
The five year old, unbeaten in two previous starts, quickly opened up a commanding advantage and safely negotiated the final two obstacles to record an impressive 11 length success.
Sky Bet were certainly taken with the performance, cutting the winner to 7/2 from 8s for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle and make him a 6/1 shot for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Mullins said: "It was a huge performance to make all in that ground and in that weather and to burn off the horses behind him. He just destroyed them with that good jump at the second last and opened up a gap of four lengths when other horses would be getting tired.
"I'm looking forward to going to Cheltenham with him but what I'm really looking forward to is sending him over fences. He has size and scope and has a lovely temperament and I'm really looking forward to going novice chasing next season.
"Ballycasey (the winner's stablemate) looks like he might go for the Albert Bartlett while Pont Alexandre seems to have plenty of speed and will go for the Neptune."
Henry de Bromhead, trainer of runner-up Sizing Gold, said: "It was a lovely run and Andrew (Lynch) felt he rode him a little too cautiously but having said that the winner looks a serious horse.
"He'll probably get an entry in the two staying novices at Cheltenham and maybe we'll go where the winner (Pont Alexandre) doesn't. Whatever he does this year is a bonus as he is a chaser for next year."