As easy as one-two-three
Willie Mullins completed a clean sweep in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
The market made the Ruby Walsh ridden Sous Les Cieux favourite for the Grade One contest but it was Marasonnien, ridden by Paul Townend, who coped best with the conditions to prevail by three lengths from Vesper Bell.
The 12 runners were tightly grouped for the majority of a contest which was run in gruelling conditions, occasionally fanning out across the track in search of better ground, and only around six lengths separated the group approaching the third last.
David Casey had made much of the running aboard Vesper Bell with Marasonninen prominent on the inside while Walsh held the favourite, who was stepping up to this trip for the first time, up in rear.
Casey was still at the head of affairs turning in but Naas winner Marasonnien moved up alongside travelling strongly as the field quickly became strung out behind as the tempo increased.
A mud-splattered Walsh came through the pack to challenge in between horses but his mount always looked to be floundering and the pair weakened back into third as their run petered out.
Townend said: "It was a slog but we came out the best side of it and he did it nicely.
"I got a nice lead into the race off Dave Casey on Vesper Bell. I switched to the near side turning in and he picked up going to the last and stayed on well.
"He's a fine size of a horse and has plenty of scope. They were probably going too slow for him. He has a nice future and he had his day today."
Mullins said: "I don't think I've ever done that before and it's great for the owners.
"The winner loved the ground and Ruby (Walsh) said that Sous Les Cieux didn't stay so he'll step back in trip.
"I would think all three of them will go over fences. They are three stayers that we thought were the types to make chasers when we got them."
As well as completing a clean sweep for the stable the result was, remarkably, also a clean sweep for owners Rich and Susannah Ricci.