Trainer Willie Mullins described Douvan as being “as good as we have ever had” after the brilliant six-year-old strolled home to win the Grade 1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle by seven and a half lengths on the opening day of the 2015 Punchestown Festival.


The French-bred, winner of last month’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, justified 1/6 favouritism as he cruised home under Ruby Walsh.


“Douvan could be anything. He is way more efficient jumping than Faugheen ever was or is and from a novice that is extraordinary,” said Mullins.


“I can’t wait to get him over a fence, but we will have to talk to connections and see what we do. Rich [Ricci, owner] obviously has Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle and it is a nice problem to have.


“I felt Douvan was as good today as he was at Cheltenham. Just watching him hurdling, at some of them he was barely coming off the ground. He just bent his legs and landed at the far side. Every time Ruby gave him a squeeze he picked up and went on about his business.


“I think Douvan is as good as we have ever had. Looking at him, he is not a Hurricane Fly type really. He is more of a Mikael D’Haguenet type and, although he didn’t go on over fences, that was for other reasons and I think Douvan will.


“I’d imagined that he’d go chasing but seeing that performance makes you think he could stay hurdling.


“He is nearly 17 hands and still a big, immature horse so it’s all the more impressive that he can still do that. Every time something comes up the gallops with him, he goes quicker and he is a big horse that will get stronger. He’s keeps getting better – in October I thought he was a good horse but not like that.”


Trainer Tom Mullins was full of praise for Slippers Madden after the jockey steered Some Article(10/1) to victory in the Killashee Handicap Hurdle.


“The way the horse was travelling, I thought he might give up but he didn’t,” said Mullins. “But fair play to Slippers, he kept persevering and got the horse home. It was a great ride.


“Today was the plan, and it was great to win this after he lost his way a bit after showing such promise in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper. Good ground is important to him so the Galway Hurdle could be a possibility.”


The opening Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase (for the Ladies Perpetual Cup) went to Wish Ye Didnt, who justified 8/13 favouritism when scoring by 10 lengths for trainer Enda Bolger and jockey Nina Carberry.


“I have the easy job – I am given these horses to train and she’s a lovely little filly. She flew round there and hopefully she will come back again for the cross-country race on Saturday. She looked OK afterwards and I’ll see how she is when I get her home,” said Bolger.


“She had a run back here in November, when she was fourth, and she also won a point-to-point as a four-year-old for Jack Bennett before I had her, so she knew her job well.  Nina says she loves top of the ground so we’ll keep her going over the summer.


“Nina’s just a natural horsewoman and I must say that the jockey on top makes the job so easy. She cut the corners and went the shortest way round.”