Andy Dufresne got back to winning ways with a workmanlike success in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday but was given a real fright by runner-up Captain Guinness, who emerged from the Grade 2 contest with as much credit as the winner.
The likes of Vautour and Douvan have won this race in recent years en route to victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and Andy Dufresne was cut into a general 12-1 (from 16) for the opening race of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival in a bid to emulate their achievements.
He travelled well for most of the way for Mark Walsh, but had to dig pretty deep to head the runner-up coming to the last and his three-quarter-of-a-length success was at least partly due to the untidy jump at the final flight of Captain Guinness.
Winning trainer Gordon Elliott said: “He was beaten by a good horse at Navan last time but I thought that was more like it today. Mark thought the inside track today over this trip was just a bit tight for him and he took a bit of organising. He's a nice horse and has galloped to the line.”
He added: “It's good to get that out of the way. I still don't think that two and a half miles will be a problem for him. He stays well and it just didn't happen for him last time and, hand on heart, I think he's going to be more suited by better ground with the way he moves.
"I'll have a chat with the owners now to see what way we'll go and whether we go straight to Cheltenham.”
In many ways, runner-up Captain Guinness was as much the story of the race as the winner. He took Rachael Blackmore to the front before the fourth flight, raced with the choke out, but despite that he found plenty from the front and had every chance at the last.
He was cut to 20-1 (from 33-1) for the Sky Bet-sponsored Supreme by Paddy Power, and trainer Henry de Bromhead said: “It didn't quite work out for him, he was a little bit headstrong but he just seemed to gallop away after that.
"He ran really well for a horse just having his second run over hurdles. He was probably bound to get found out a little bit and the mistake at the last didn't help but that was a really positive run against a good horse.
"I would ideally like to get another run into him if we were going to Cheltenham, although I would probably be happy enough to go straight there and take our chance.”