Asterion Forlonge got off to a winning start over fences with victory in the Roche Group At Vista Beginners Chase at Punchestown.
The Grade One-winning novice hurdler – last seen finishing fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March – was sent off at 4-11 for his first try over the larger obstacles and Paul Townend was soon disputing matters with Conflated.
The latter proved a determined rival and the pair matched strides for most of the way, before the Willie Mullins-trained market leader just began to get the better of the argument from the third-last.
Conflated would not go away, however, and there was a scare for odds-on backers two out when the grey jumped to his right and stumbled on landing, although he was quickly back on an even keel.
His jump at the final fence was much better and he came home full of running for a six-length success. Bookmaker quotes varied afterwards for Cheltenham between the Arkle and Marsh Novices’ Chase, but it seems the longer event might ultimately be favoured.
Mullins said: “It was a satisfactory introduction and I’ll be going out in trip with him now, it’ll be minimum two-and-a-half (miles) for the rest of the year.
“I haven’t any plans made for him yet, but I was happy enough with that.
“He jumped very well, obviously he made that mistake at the second-last and he got one wrong before the ditch, but by and large I was happy with him for a first-time-out novice chaser.
“At the second-last I was happy with the way, when it looked like he was going down, he found another leg and picked himself back up.”
When asked if the Joe Donnelly-owned winner enjoyed going right-handed, he added: “Yes, but it won’t stop me going left-handed again with him.
“I’d say a longer trip will be a help going left-handed. We’d have time for a run before Christmas, but it’s not essential.”
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