Faugheen made no mistake as the red-hot favourite in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
- Related Content
Trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, the heavily-backed 6/4 favourite powered home to beat Ballyalton by four and a half lengths, with the winner's stable companion Rathvinden a further half-length back in third.
Much in the same way as Vautour won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle for the same connections on day one, Faugheen simply outclassed his opposition and never really looked in much trouble, despite making small mistakes and the fourth-last and penultimate flights.
Cole Harden and Creepy were the early pace-setters, with Red Sherlock also in a prominent position, while Walsh had Faugheen settled sweetly in fifth.
He made his move at the top of the hill and had kicked a couple of lengths clear on turning into the straight.
Ballyalton and Rathvinden finished strongly after both encountering some traffic problems as the leaders tired, but they had no chance of catching the impressive winner.
Mullins is already looking forward to seeing his charge over the larger obstacles next season, saying: "He looks a fair sort. We always thought he was a chaser in the making and I'd prefer to go chasing with him next year.
"We'll just see what next season brings. When he blundered at the third-last, I thought maybe that was it.
"But he picked up and went away. He looks a bit above average.
"We weren't sure which race to go for as we had a good one for the two-mile race and a good one for the three-mile, so he just slotted in here really."
Asked to compare Faugheen with his Supreme victor Vautour, Mullins added: "Vautour is a different level."
- Photo Galleries/
- Cheltenham Festival: Day 2
A delighted Walsh said: "He had a look at the second-last and I upped the revs.
"Willie said all along that there was a lot under the bonnet and he was right.
"He's a smashing horse."
Winning owner Rich Ricci has an embarrassment of riches in the novice hurdle division and said: "He's beautiful, he jumped very well.
"He's been a very difficult horse to keep right, Willie and the whole team have done a magical job to keep him right.
"He's great for the future."
Ian Williams believes runner-up Ballyalton will be even more proficient when he is sent chasing.
The trainer said: "I'm absolutely thrilled. He was clearly beaten by a very good horse.
"You could draw a line through his last run at Cheltenham, and he's had a nice break since then.
"He's a chaser, not a hurdler, and we'll just have to decide whether to go over fences at the end of this campaign or after he's had a summer break."
Mullins said of third-placed Rathvinden: "He ran well but missed the break and was never in a position to challenge.
"Paul (Townend, jockey) just said he didn't think he was at home on the quicker ground."