Vautour victory in Moscow
Willie Mullins' Vautour had to work hard to win the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday.
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."
Sky Bet left Vautour unchanged at 8/1 for the 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 in 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."