Willie Mullins' Vautour had to work hard to win the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday.
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Sent off the 1/4 favourite on the back of a facile win in a 30-runner maiden at Naas on December 7, there was no such procession after a hefty step up in grade.
Yet this was a pleasing effort from the five-year-old, who travelled well on the inside under Paul Townend and then pulled out more when the going got tough.
A mistake at the last didn't help his cause, especially with Davy Russell finding a good stride on the runner-up Western Boy, but he regathered his momentum to see off the Pat Fahy-trained challenger in good style.
Townend said: "He (Western Boy) looks a good horse in his own right. But I was happy with my lad, he jumped well in the main.
"I was slow at the last and Davy winged it, but he doesn't ride like a slow horse, he gives you a good feel throughout the race."
Mullins said of his three-quarter length winner: "He idled going to the last then fiddled it. When Paul asked him, he felt he had plenty in the tank and I loved the way he fought back when he looked beaten.
"He'll come on from that. As he goes up in grade they will go faster, which will help.
"He was pulling too hard and using up petrol. I'd like to get another run into him before Cheltenham.
"I don't know what distance we'll go for. Maybe he's more of a Neptune horse than a Supreme.
"He looks a real chaser in the making and that's where his future is.
"Western Boy is a very decent horse and the two of them of pulled well clear of the rest."
Sky Bet left Vautour unchanged at 8/1 for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle with Western Boy a 16/1 chance.
Spokesman Michael Shinners said: "Vautour is favourite for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' but we've left him unchanged at 8/1 as he had to really knuckle down to win today.
"We thought there might be a dominant presence at the top of the market after Saturday's action with informative trials either side of the Irish Sea, but it remains wide open at present."