Reserve Tank held the late challenge of Sams Profile in a thrilling climax to the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
A strong field of 11 runners went to post for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One, with Martin Brassil’s City Island the red-hot favourite at 11-10 as he aimed to follow up his impressive display in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Reserve Tank had won his three most recent starts over hurdles, completing his hat-trick with a surprise win at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
With Robbie Power in the saddle, the 13-2 chance headed the chasing pack as Royal Rendezvous led for much of the way, before cruising to the front before the home turn.
The five-year-old looked set to win decisively at the top of the straight, but Sams Profile powered home after the final flight and there was just half a length between the pair crossing the line.
Eglantine Du Seuil fared best of five runners for Willie Mullins in third, with City Island well-beaten in sixth.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “He’s a lovely horse. He surprised us at Aintree, in all fairness.
“He had terrible ulcers over Christmas and we gave him three months off. He has just improved and improved since.
“He could be anything, that was a lovely performance tonight.”
He added: “It looked a better race than Aintree, perhaps, and he travelled so well. When he won at Sandown, he looked a bit slow, but he’s finding a bit of pace.
“We love using Robbie, he’s got his commitments, but when we can get him we get him.
“This horse looks like he’s got chaser written all over him and he could be better over a fence.
“We’ll enjoy today, turn him out, but I’d be amazed if he stayed over hurdles – you never know.”