Energumene struts his stuff in Cork to comfortably defend his Hilly Way Chase title

Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Energumene made a fine start to his campaign with a successful defence of the Bar One Racing Hilly Way Chase at Cork.

The eight-year-old kicked off last season with victory in this Grade Two contest before coming off second best in a box office clash with Shishkin in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January.

He emphatically turned the tables at Cheltenham in March, however, when providing Willie Mullins with a first Champion Chase success and followed up at Punchestown to confirm himself the undoubted king of the two-mile chasing division.

Faced with just three rivals on his reappearance, Energumene was the 1-9 favourite in the hands of Paul Townend and dominated from the front from the outset.

Having jumped accurately in the main, the Denham Red gelding got a little close to the second fence from home but it did not stop his momentum and he ultimately won hard held by 15 lengths.

Epson Du Houx was best of the rest in second.

Mullins said: "I was a little worried passing the winning post the first time as his eye was caught by something. The end result was great but I don't know if he was feeling something or was looking at the gate or crossing the road, but definitely I wasn't happy with the way he went around the bend passing the stands.

"Paul thought he was idling in front - he was probably in front on his own and there was nothing to make him race. He loves jumping, has a great appetite for it and you are lucky when you have a horse like that.

"We won't make any plans, he is in at Christmas, at the Dublin Racing Festival and the Ascot race is there but we won't make any decision until we see how he comes out of this."

The champion trainer also confirmed his intention to run Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, assuming the Grade One contest is rescheduled after Saturday's meeting was cancelled.

"The weather forecast around Punchestown's area of the country doesn't look good. There is still a good chance Galopin Des Champs will go to the John Durkan, otherwise we are looking at Leopardstown at Christmas (Savills Chase) or Tramore on New Year's Day," Mullins added.

"There is lovely ground at Tramore, it is safe and if you want to get your horse out and come home safe, it is easier go there. The ground can be very dry at Leopardstown but Galopin has run there and come home successfully before so we'll see. It is all up in the air still."

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