leopardstown 9th Feb
(Healy Racing Photos)
Only fourth in the Lexus last time, the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old (11-8) had something to prove and he did so with a smart staying performance against a rival who appeared not to get home.
Andrew Lynch held up Flemenstar for most of the way to preserve his stamina, but when push came to shove after the last Peter Casey's stable star could not get to Sir Des Champs, who was driven out by Davy Russell to win by a length and three-quarters.
The 6-4 favourite looked booked for fourth spot as he appeared to be fading, but with three others jousting for the prize after the final fence he suddenly sprouted wings and cut them down to beat Texas Jack by a nose.
Townend was also on board as Champagne Fever (2-1 favourite) bounced back to winning form after his Naas flop when he led all the way to take the Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
With market rival Waaheb an early casualty, Champagne Fever had all bar Bright New Dawn beaten at the top of the straight, but he had to be kept going strongly to score by a length and three-quarters.
Mullins' fourth victory came in the paddypower.com iPhone Fast Bet Handicap Hurdle when Tennis Cap (6-1) led all the way for a Townend treble, while top hunters Salsify (3-1) and Tammys Hill staged a thriller, the former grabbing the prize by a neck.
Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud completed a good afternoon's work at Leopardstown today when his Azorian landed the concluding kieranoconnellracing.com (Pro/Am) Bumper to add to the success of Sir Des Champs in the earlier Hennessy Gold Cup.