William Hill Champion Chase (Grade 1)
A brilliant season for a truly brilliant horse ended with Energumene’s position as the best two-miler around now utterly beyond reproach as he handed out a rare domestic defeat to Chacun Pour Soi.
A field of five went to post here but in reality this looked a match between the two Willie Mullins heavyweights and the outcome was a resounding victory for Energumene and Paul Townend. This was the only the second time in Chacun Pour Soi’s career that he has met with defeat in Ireland and the torch has now indisputably passed from him to Energumene as his trainer’s flagship two-miler.
In a race that perhaps wasn’t run at the frenetic pace that many expected Chacun Pour Soi set off in front at a steady gallop but fully seven fences from home the Tony Bloom-owned Energumene (4/7) joined battle at the head of the field. As the leading pair left three out behind them Energumene seemed poised to take control but for a moment or two it looked as if there could be a late twist as Chacun Pour Soi was back in front at the penultimate fence and he quickened into a useful lead.
To his credit though Energumene showed the qualities that belong to a true champion as he dug deep and found the substantial reserves that have enabled him to win seven of his eight starts over fences. The favourite was in front before the final fence which he cleared with aplomb and he kept on strongly to score by eight and a half lengths, while there was a further six-length gap back to Envoi Alen.
“I thought that was a tremendous performance from the winner to beat Chacun Pour Soi on ground that maybe favoured Chacun Pour Soi more,” said Willie Mullins. “I think Energumene is improving with racing and learning all the time. I think we learnt a lot from his defeat in Ascot and he has a lot more speed than we were giving him credit for which he showed by being able to win like that, off a pace like that.
“Watching the race I thought Chacun had a great chance halfway between the last two fences but Energumene just had so much in the tank. We’ll get them both home now and make a plan for next season when I would imagine that we will take different paths with both of them.”
Meanwhile, the winning jockey added: “He jumped great. I didn’t want to take him back so he adjusted himself a little at the second last. We came out on top today but I thought it was an admirable performance from Chacun. It was a hard choice between them at Cheltenham and it was again today as we know how good Chacun is around here.”