Klassical Dream made light of a long absence as he ran out a hugely impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.
A ready winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019, when he also followed up at this meeting, his career hit the buffers last season.
Sent off an odds-on favourite in two Grade One outings, he was beaten in both, most recently in the Matheson Hurdle in December 2019 when last of five.
However, having his first outing for nearly 500 days, there was plenty of market confidence behind Patrick Mullins’ mount which saw him sent off at 5-1 in a strong field.
The favourite was Cheltenham winner Flooring Porter but he got very worked up down at the start, missed the break, raced keenly throughout and by the second last he was beating a retreat.
French Dynamite was left in front, but all the while Mullins crept closer on Klassical Dream, who cruised to the front on the bridle.
Stablemate James Du Berlais came out of the pack to chase him home, but was beaten nine lengths. Ronald Pump was third.
Patrick Mullins said: “I can’t say I’m surprised. He’s a very high-class horse, it just went wrong for him over two miles.
“I know he hadn’t run for a long time, but he was ready to run at Christmas and he got a small setback and then it was too late to go chasing.
“Eilish Byrne deserves great credit as she rides him out all the time and he’s not easy.
“I wasn’t surprised how well he settled, he had a hood on and we went a good gallop. The false start wasn’t ideal, but he handled it all right.”
Mullins, who moved three clear of Jamie Codd in the race to be champion amateur, added: “I’m getting to pick up rides in Grade Ones, I’m in a very lucky position and Jamie doesn’t have that kind of ammunition and firepower.
“When you are riding for Willie Mullins at Punchestown, it makes the job a lot easier.
“I’ve been lucky enough to win the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and now the Stayers here. I was second in the Gold Cup on Djakadam one year, so hopefully I might get the full set at some stage.”
Mullins mentioned the French Champion Hurdle as a possible option for the winner.