Conti Clear Winner of Denman Chase
(Healy Racing Photos)
The seven-year-old enhanced his claims for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with an accurate display of fencing in testing going.
Mail De Bievre made the running on his first run for over 500 days but Tom George's charge ran out of steam as the winner and The Giant Bolster came to fight out the finish from the third last.
Ruby Walsh refused to panic as Tom Scudamore drove his rival into contention and the pair asserted their superiority close home.
The winning rider said: "Through the race he travelled well and jumped well. He quickened up well and joined Paddy (Brennan on Mail De Bievre).
"He did well for a horse short of full fitness on quite testing ground. Paul (Nicholls) has not got him fully wound up. He has one race in mind.
"If he improves as much from the Charlie Hall as he did to the Betfair Chase he will run a big race in the Gold Cup.
"He's a gem. He's got plenty of scope. There's lots to like about him."
Sky Bet reacted by cutting the winner into 5/1 from 6/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The winner and second are likely to meet again at the March showpiece.
Trainer, David Bridgwater said of the second: "I'm chuffed to bits. Cheltenham is a different track and this is the one they want to be worried about. I can guarantee I have missed more work than the other horse."
Sky Bet rate the eight-year-old as a 16/1 chance to go one better than he did last year.
Tom George, trainer of Mail De Bievre, who was just touched off for fourth by Junior, said: "I'm very happy with him. He's very exuberant and Paddy (Brennan) said with hindsight we should have run him over two miles."
Champion Trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Paul Townend completed a Grade 1 double at Leopardstown today when Boston Bob landed a thrilling renewal of the top level Dr. P.J. Moriarty Novice Chase.