Briar Hill had to work to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles and beat his sole rival in the Navan Novice Hurdle.
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Not only did runner-up Azorian ran off wide at the bend heading into the back straight, losing several lengths in the process, but Briar Hill himself looked to lose concentration as the race finally developed on the home turn as Azorian drew alongside to challenge.
However a couple of slaps down the neck got Briar Hill racing again and although he had to work much harder than his 1/4 backers would ideally have liked, he found enough in the finish to score by four and three-quarter lengths.
He remains 12/1 joint-favourite with the sponsors for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the same price for the three-mile Albert Bartlett, but was eased from 8/1 to 10/1 for the Neptune Novices' Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs.
Spokesman Michael Shinners said: "We certainly didn't feel we could cut him for any race at the Festival on the strength of that performance, but in a race that turned into a half-mile sprint, we almost certainly didn't see him to best effect either."
With Noel Meade pulling his two runners out, the race was reduced to a match and the verdict of the winning connections was understandably that conditions had hardly suited last season's Champion Bumper winner.
"He only does the bare minimum and I suppose that's a good thing - horses that aren't exuberant tend to last longer," rider Ruby Walsh told At The Races.
"When he heard Davy [Russell, on the runner-up] coming up behind him at the third last he quickened up and when he was on his own again going to second last he slowed down, but that's him.
"I thought I was riding the best horse and you try and keep it as simple as you can, so I went a good gallop, but Davy didn't seem to be having an easy time - he was heading for the chase track when I saw him. I suppose horses that are a bit flighty tend to get even flightier on a windy day like this.
"It was the same as at Wexford, when I got hold of him going to the last he really picked up, but good horses do that."
Walsh was non-committal over future targets for Briar Hill, adding: "He's not slow, but I'd say we've every option with him. I'll leave it up to Willie - he'll train them and I'll just ride them."
Mullins himself indicated that the Neptune or Albert Bartlett were more likely targets this season than the Supreme Novices'.
He said: "It was a tactical race and we weren't sure if Azorian would jump off in front or drop in. Our fella proved in Wexford that he was able to jump in front.
"He's a lovely relaxed individual and he stays. He could go out to three miles if we want. I'd imagine we'll be looking at two and a half miles or longer. He seems to have loads of stamina.
"Christmas might come a bit too soon and we could possibly look at the Slaney Hurdle at Naas in January.
"He's closely related to Boston Bob. Last year he showed nothing at home but this year he's showing at home what he's doing on the track."
Mullins admitted he has a seriously strong hand in the novice hurdle division.
"This is definitely the best crop of novice hurdlers I've ever had. They are all fit and healthy and hopefully we can keep them like that," he said.