Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Energumene supplemented his Cheltenham Festival triumph with a clear-cut victory over stablemate Chacun Pour Soi in the William Hill Champion Chase at Punchestown.
Having provided Willie Mullins with his first success in the two-mile chasing championship in the Cotswolds last month, Energumene was the 4-7 favourite to follow up under Paul Townend.
Chacun Pour Soi, so impressive when beating another Mullins ace in Allaho in this race 12 months ago, unseated Patrick Mullins at Cheltenham but was the clear threat to his stable companion at 5-2.
On paper, it looked a match between the Closutton duo and so it proved as they upped the ante racing down the back straight to pull clear of Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Envoi Allen and Captain Guinness.
There was little to choose between Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi heading to the third fence from home, but Energumene jumped it the better and it was obvious on landing he had more in the tank.
To his credit, Chacun Pour Soi did his level best to get back into it and was back upsides jumping the second-last, but Energumene asserted soon after and had eight and a half lengths in hand at the line.
Mullins said: “Patrick was setting it up in front and Energumene loved it, he was just jumping up beside Chacun Pour Soi. On this ground that was a tremendous performance.
“The ground would have suited most of the other horses in the race. I wasn’t sure whether it would suit Energumene, but he went on it today anyhow.
“Chacun Pour Soi has had a great career and hopefully he’ll win more races, but I think we’ve seen the new champion here today. We’ll plan next year with both horses and probably go down different paths.
“I thought Chacun had his chance landing over the second last and I thought ‘the race is on here’, but Energumene just found so much in the tank.
“On this ground, to me, that was as good, if not better, than he ever did before.”
Energumene’s only defeat over obstacles came at the hands of Shishkin in a barnstorming clash at Ascot in January. Shishkin subsequently failed to fire for the much-anticipated rematch at Cheltenham.
“He just seems to be improving with racing and he’s learning all the time,” Mullins added.
“We learned an awful lot from Ascot, we learned more about how to ride him and have more confidence in him. That’s the way Paul has been doing it now and it’s worked twice since.
“He’s by the same sire as Un De Sceaux and looked like he might be a similar sort, but he has a lot more speed than we gave him credit for.
“The fact that he was able to come off a pace like that shows the speed, he was still able to gallop away from them and show speed going down to the last fence.
“It tells me that he’s improving all the time.”