Quel Esprit silenced all the doubters with an all the way success in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday for the Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins combination.
Sent off the 5/4 favourite Quel Esprit put in a fantastic round of jumping to give his trainer an eight success in the Grade 1 contest.
The son of Saint Des Saints led the field for most of the contest with Robbie Power and Bostons Angel keeping the winner company over the first mile.
As the race developed Bostons Angel began to falter and it was Roberto Goldback that put down the only real challenge to Walsh and Quel Esprit.
A good jump at the last sealed the race and Walsh only had to keep Quel Esprit to his work to seal yet another Grade 1 success for trainer Willie Mullins.
Speaking after the race a happy Mullins said “Ruby gave him a very brave ride. He got him jumping and galloping and the horse threw in a few fabulous leaps whenhe needed to.
“We always thought he was a fantastic jumper at home and we were surprised when he fell a couple of times last year. He had a wind operation which might have helped or it could be that he’s a stronger, more mature horse this season. The likelihood is that we’ll have a crack at the Gold Cup.”
While Ruby Walsh will not be deserting Kauto Star in the Gold Cup the jockey feels that Quel Esprit is entitled to take his chance. “He came into this a 150-rated horse and he’s probably a 160-rated horse now but he still has to improve another stone to compete with the likes of Long Run and Kauto Star. But he’s won a Hennessy and he’s entitled to run in a Gold Cup,” said Walsh.