Connections of Impaire Et Passe insist there were “a lot of positives” to take from his comeback defeat in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old was one of the star novices of last season, carrying the ‘double green’ colours of owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede to four victories, including Grade One triumphs at the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals.

With some bookmakers rating him as the biggest threat to Constitution Hill for the Champion Hurdle this term, Impaire Et Passe was odds-on to pick up where he left off on Sunday, but after travelling strongly in the hands of Paul Townend, he was mowed down by the defending champion Teahupoo.

While disappointed to suffer defeat, the owners’ racing manager Anthony Bromley is keeping the faith.

“I was perfectly happy with Impaire’s return, he took a good blow and just got done close home. I think he showed plenty and we’ll look forward to the season ahead,” he said.

“It was his first step outside of novice company and I think he performed with a lot of credit. He’s such a lovely horse and there were a lot of positives to take from the run.”

What route Impaire Et Passe takes to the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham remains undecided, with Mullins also responsible for another major player in the form of State Man.

The latter won the Morgiana Hurdle, the Matheson Hurdle, the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle last term, with his only defeat coming at the hands of Constitution Hill when runner-up at Prestbury Park.

State Man made a successful reappearance when registering back-to-back wins in the Morgiana last month, and Bromley believes there is every chance Impaire Et Passe will meet his stablemate at some stage before Cheltenham in March.

He added: “Whether he comes out again at Christmas or waits for the Dublin Racing Festival (Irish Champion Hurdle), we’ll just wait and see what Willie wants to do.

“I’d imagine he’s going to come back to two miles now because there’s isn’t a two-and-a-half-mile race at Christmas in Ireland – it’s either two miles or three miles.

“Whether or not he does run in the Matheson Hurdle will be Willie’s decision as he’d obviously be taking on State Man, but if he doesn’t take him on at Christmas he’d be taking him on at the Dublin Festival and that will tell us more as to where we are with the horse.

“There aren’t the races in Ireland to split them up, the only time you could was for their reappearance runs as one could go Morgiana and one could go Hatton’s Grace.

“From now on they’ll have to meet and then, come March, there’s another one for us to meet (Constitution Hill)!”

A possible alternative to locking horns with State Man over the festive period would be to make the trip to Britain for an early clash with Constitution Hill in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day, but that appears highly unlikely, with Bromley saying a trip to Kempton was of “no interest at all”.