'What can you say after that?' - magnificent Monkfish strolls to Flogas success
It says everything you need to know about the regard in which Monkfish is held at Closutton that, after winning the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase in a canter, his trainer Willie Mullins revealed Paul Townend believed the horse belonged in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup half an hour later.
For a horse who was tackling fences in public for just the third time in his career, Monkfish jumped for fun at the head of the field and nothing about the performance suggested it wouldn't have been a similar result had connections of the big red giant rolled the big dice.
Of course, Monkfish wasn't needed in the feature race of the Dublin Racing Festival, with Kemboy taking care of business. But, in terms of raw ability, let there be no doubt that Mullins has a real Gold Cup contender for the future on his hands.
Mullins said: "The horse was fantastic and Paul was fantastic on him. They are a great combination together. What can you say after a performance like that?
"Paul thought he should have been in the next race. I was more impressed with him today than any other day. It looks as though he might be getting better with each run. The ease of it was impressive."
Asked if Monkish could be the next Florida Pearl or even the heir to reigning dual Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo, Mullins said: "This fella has the same potential. Everything is just so effortless. He jumps, gallops, seems to be in the right position and he has huge scope no matter where he is, he just comes up."
The champion trainer added: "If he gets in close, he is so athletic, he can get his shoulders off the ground and bend his back. Paul never looked worried. He looked like he was on a lead horse turning for home. Absolutely no effort."
A good horse makes things look easy, but the fact that Latest Exhibition was beaten 11 lengths into second illustrates just how much was going on under that big bonnet.
Monkfish, who has more similarities with a giraffe than a racehorse with how he towers over his fences, and indeed his rivals, was shortened into a general evens to win the Festival Novices' Chase at Cheltenham.
Paul Nolan has tried and failed three times to get Monkfish beaten with his star inmate Latest Exhibition.
He will not be the only person resigned to thinking that it will take something special to lower the colours of Monkfish at Cheltenham.
There were a few eyebrows raised earlier in the week when Mullins suggested he had assembled his strongest bunch of novice chasers yet.
It looked a bold statement at the time, but boy was he right with share prices in Energumene and now Monkfish skyrocketing.
Victories with those horses at Leopardstown provided a window into the future at Closutton. That future is a bright one.
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