Klassical Dream landed the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown for the second successive year.
Having returned from a lengthy lay off to win last year, he looked like being the dominant force in the division when beating Flooring Porter at Leopardstown over Christmas.
However, since then things had not gone to plan for Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old as he was beaten in the Galmoy Hurdle and faded into fifth in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham having looked a big danger going to the last.
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With Flooring Porter not running, Sire Du Berlais – who beat Gavin Cromwell’s dual Stayers’ Hurdle hero at Aintree – was his main market rival in the Grade One feature and the two were always keeping an eye on each other.
The pace, though steady, was set by Gentlemansgame and Vanillier, and Sire Du Berlais went between that pair just as they turned into the straight.
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By now Paisley Park had become detached, only to run on again late, as is his wont, and Paul Townend looked confident on Klassical Dream.
The 11/10 favourite hit the front going great guns but then Robbie Power, who had just announced his intention to retire on Friday, came with a rattling late challenge on Ashdale Bob.
Paul Townend kisses the trophy after victory on Klassical Dream in the Punchestown Champion Stayers Hurdle
There was to be no fairytale ending for Power on this occasion, however, as Klassical Dream held on by a-length-and-a-quarter.
“Paul got him lovely and settled and relaxed at the start. Having so few runners in the race was a big help as he was able to settle him on the outside and keep him relaxed,” said Mullins.
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“The horse races so much better when he does that. He gets a bit upset but he was very relaxed today in the parade ring, at the start and during the race. He’s maturing as he gets older.
“I’d imagine we’ll go the same route next year. I don’t think we’re going to go over fences, I think it’s easier to keep him sounder that way.”