Pont Alexandre in control from Don Cossack approaching the last
©Healy Racing Photos
By Gary Carson
Pont Alexandre made a stunning Irish debut when destroying his field in the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle this afternoon.
Willie Mullins looks to have another star on his hands after the French import made all in the two-and-a-half mile contest for an easy 13-length victory.
Don Cossack was sent off 8/15 favourite but couldn't live with the front-runner in the closing stages.
The hotpot tried to get on terms after the third last but was fighting a losing battle as the pair went to the penultimate flight.
Walsh asked his mount to stretch before the last and he pulled clear in style.
p>Don Cossack was well held when he seemed to stumble after the last and crashed to the floor. Busty Brown was left to come home a moderate second.
The 3/1 winner had made just one start in France back in May when successful at Cholet and was maintaining his 100 per cent record.
“I bought him during the summer and I just fell in love with him the first day I saw him,” said Mullins.
“We paid a lot for him but I was very bullish that I wanted him.
“He wasn't showing me anything until about three weeks ago and we decided to come here and take our chance.
“He looks an exciting prospect and a chaser in the making. I'd say that's probably the first time I've pitched a novice straight into a Grade 1 but that's how much I think of him.
“The obvious race for him is at Naas in January (Slaney Hurdle) but Champagne Fever may go there and we could look further down the line.”
Mullins also had a word about the ground:- “The ground is very testing but it's great to be able to race.
“Ruby said it was heavy at Cheltenham yesterday but he wouldn't know how to describe this!”
Walsh was also impressed with the winner and added:- “He was doing things nicely at home but it's always a worry first time over these hurdles and with him not having run in so long it's always a worry in a Grade 1.
“It was a good performance. In fairness to Willie he stuck his neck out to buy him and I'd say it was a good call.
“We were going a good old gallop as he stays well at home. He'll be a lovely chaser.
“It was a brave decision to run him here. I was thinking a winners' of one would be lovely.
“Rich and Willie probably thought that ifp>Don Cossack beat him – so be it – it would still be a lovely run.”
The bookmakers were also impressed with the winner who is now general favourite for the Neptune Investment Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Sean Graham and Ladbrokes go 8/1 while Boylesports are 7/1 and Paddy Power 6/1.
Stan James make the impressive winner 7/1 favourite for the Neptune, and 6/1 market leader for the Albert Bartlett.
They also pushed outp>Don Cossack to 14/1 (from 8's) for the Neptune, while Ladbrokes moved him out to12/1 (from 7/1).
It was a double on the card for Walsh and Mullins following the earlier victory of Boston Bob.
(Additional reporting by Alan Magee)