There was a clean sweep for the Irish in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, with Vauban powering to victory at Cheltenham and leading home four of his compatriots in the Grade One that turned into a speed test.
Paul Townend was always well placed, hunting the relatively sedate pace set by Porticello and Fil Dor before being produced wide off the final bend.
The Willie Mullins-trained Vauban was still on the bridle as he eased a length clear approaching the last and while he made a hash of it, landing on all fours, he soon regained his momentum.
Townend always had plenty up his sleeve and the 6-4 favourite drew readily clear up the stands rail to score by two and a half lengths from Fil Dor, trained by Gordon Elliott, whose Pied Piper ran on a further neck back third.
Townend said: “We always said he was a work in progress and he’s improved every day and he can improve again.
“We hadn’t planned to be in front at the last, but that is just the way it turned out. He had a look around and I knew there was loads there when I got to the back of it.
“He’s a bit to learn, but he’s improving with every run. He’s got a very big engine.
“He’ll have to jump a bit slicker for a Champion Hurdle, but that can be worked out at home. He’s definitely going the right way.”
Owner Rich Ricci added: “I always said Vauban was our best chance of the week and it’s great to do that. When they come and run like they work, it’s a wonderful thing and to get a winner is just spectacular.
“It does take the pressure off because at the end of every season if you are in the game in a significant way, you want to have a Cheltenham winner so it’s important to have one.”