Willie Mullins-trained Quel Esprit wins Irish Hennessy Gold Cup
Trainer Willie Mullins celebrated his eighth Irish Hennessy Gold Cup victory with a strong performance from Quel Esprit at Leopardstown.
The much-fancied grey made virtually all the running at the three-mile feature to finish two lengths ahead of Roberto Goldback.
Jockey Ruby Walsh established the eight-year-old - a 5-4 favourite - at the head of the chase from the off.
“He has another stone to improve to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup”
Outsider Treacle claimed third place with Follow The Plan finishing fourth.
Quel Esprit cut out much of the early pace with Bostons Angel and China Rock in close attendance.
There was little change in the order until near the end when Magnanimity made a bad mistake that put paid to his chance.
China Rock had faded by the final fence leaving Roberto Goldback to stage a challenge, but Quel Esprit finished strongly.
Walsh said: "He jumped well, he travelled well. We went a really good gallop and it was a good performance.
"He likes to go a really good gallop. He was unlucky when he fell in his races last year. When we schooled the novices 18 months ago he was the best jumper.
"He's probably a 160 horse which leaves him 14lb behind Long Run and Kauto Star. They are in the mid 170s. He has another stone to improve to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup.
"Willie thinks he's entitled to run in the Gold Cup. He's won a Hennessy so he has to run in the Gold Cup."
Several bookmakers have now cut Quel Esprit's Gold Cup odds, with Coral offering 14-1.