Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Kicking King was crowned a true champion on his home ground when effortlessly strolling home three lengths clear of Rule Supreme to land the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup on day two of the Irish National Hunt Festival.
The eight-year-old never looked in any danger and winning trainer Tom Taaffe said: "What he's done this year is pure class, there's no other way of describing it. He's done exactly what you'd expect a progressive Gold Cup horse would do and this epitomises what you'd dream about.
"He just gets more professional both mentally and physically and has a super attitude. He'd only done two and a half bits of work since Cheltenham and was so well at home beforehand that barring something silly I was expecting that sort of performance
"I was more nervous today than before any other day this year as everything had gone so well that I just wanted to get him back to go out to grass.
"I would hope that he gets a good break then possibly start off at Gowran Park again. We'll see what happens after that, I think there might be a couple of announcements in the next couple of weeks and we'll see what carrots are dangled at us."
Winning rider Barry Geraghty added: "The worry today was how fast they were going to go early on but the quicker they went the easier he settled.
"He absolutely winged three out and went away with me at the last. He's got so much class you don't have to ask him to do anything. I just hope he's as good next season as this"
Rule Supreme could make a quick reappearance at Punchestown tomorrow in the Ballymore Properties Champion Stayers Hurdle.
Trainer Willie Mullins said: "He jumped as well as ever and I was delighted with him. He might go for the French Champion Hurdle again and I'll see how he is in the morning before deciding whether he runs tomorrow - it's a big prize."
Kicking King's rider Barry Geraghty completed a quick double when going on to take the S M Morris Ltd Handicap Chase aboard Jasmin D'Oudaires for trainer Willie Mullins.
Blazing Liss is likely to have run her last race after landing the Bewleys Hotels Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Hurdle.
"She was covered by Flemensfirth a couple of weeks ago and if she is in foal that will have been her last race. If not we'll have to make other plans," said trainer John Kiely.
Philip Carberry, whose brother Paul and sister Nina both rode winners on Tuesday, got his name on the Festival scoresheet when partnering Stutter to win the Blue Square Handicap Hurdle.
"My lad got the gap at the right time," said Carberry. "I just hoped he'd be able to wing the last and get there but he did it a lot easier than I thought."
Trainer John Carr added: "Today was the plan, he had a run on the Flat as a prep for this, and I should think the handicapper will put him up a bit. But we might give the Galway Hurdle a go if he gets in on a reasonable weight."
Wexford trainer John Codd landed the opening AON Group/Sean Barrett Bloodstock Insurances Hurdle with Strides Of Fire, a half-brother to top two-year-old filly Queen's Logic.
Today's crowd at Punchestown was 20,162, up from 18,759 on the same day 12 months ago.
RAIN FRESHENS UP NEWMARKET GROUND & STABLE LADS IN FOR A BUMPER PAYDAY THANKS TO ULTIMATEPOKER.COM
Following 4.8mm of rainfall yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon and last night, the going on Newmarket's Rowley Mile Racecourse is now GOOD-TO-FIRM all over ahead of the £1m UltimatePoker.com Guineas Festival this weekend.
Michael Prosser, Clerk of the Course, said this morning: "The rain was just what we wanted. It has freshened things up nicely and got rid of the firm places between the 1 ½ furlong and 3 furlong markers and between the 1 ½ mile and 2 mile starts. The grass cover is looking exceptional and it's really decent, quick ground out there now.
"The latest forecast indicates that we should get another 3mm-5mm this afternoon and perhaps another 2mm-3mm on Thursday, but after that it looks like being predominantly dry and sunny. With temperatures set to hit 21C over the weekend, the further rain we are expecting over the next 36 hours will help to maintain the ground as it is currently for the start of racing on Saturday."
The stable lads in charge of the winners of the weekend's three big races are set for a bumper payday courtesy of the sponsors, UltimatePoker.com. The lad or girl who looks after the winning horse in the UltimatePoker.com 2000 Guineas on Saturday and the UltimatePoker.com 1000 Guineas and UltimatePoker.com Jockey Club Stakes on Sunday will each receive £1,000.
In addition, the lad or girl who looks after the Best Turned Out horse in each race will receive £100.
Newmarket's Managing Director, Lisa Hancock, said: "The winning owners, trainer and jockey in these races are well rewarded through the high prize money, but UltimatePoker.com wanted to make sure that the crucial role of the lad or girl who has looked after the horse in the weeks and months leading up to the race is also recognised through a big reward.
"These are very big prizes and I know that the three stable staff who benefited last year were thrilled by the sponsor's generosity."
DAMSON WITHDRAWN FROM 1,000 GUINEAS
Damson will not run in Sunday's 1,000 Guineas having scoped badly after working at Newmarket this morning. Trainer David Wachman said: "Obviously it's disappointing for all concerned but it's not the end of the world and hopefully we'll have her back in time for the Irish 1,000."
GLOBAL SPRINT CHALLENGE LEADERS ON COURSE FOR GOLDEN JUBILEE STAKES
A total of 77 horses have been entered for the Golden Jubilee Stakes, leg four of the Global Sprint Challenge, headed by the winners of the first two legs in Australia, Fastnet Rock and Cape Of Good Hope.
Fastnet Rock, trained in Sydney by Choisir's handler Paul Perry, won the Group One TEAC Lightning Stakes at Flemington on Saturday 5th February, with Hong Kong-trained Cape Of Good Hope (David Oughton) in third. Cape Of Good Hope went on to win the second series leg, the Group One Timbercorp Australia Stakes, at Moonee Valley, on 19th February.
Points for all series races are allocated 10-5-4-3-2 first to fifth with all other starters awarded one point. Horses competing outside their own racing jurisdiction gain double points.
Racing jurisdictions are deemed to be: Victoria - Australia & New Zealand
Ascot - Europe, UAE
Japan - Asia
Competitors trained outside these jurisdictions qualify for double points in all legs.
Cape Of Good Hope, with an away win and third, leads the challenge on 28 points, from Fastnet Rock, who is on 10 points with a home win.
The winner is deemed to be the horse with the most points, who has accumulated at least 30 points and who has competed in two or more participating countries. Fastnet Rock and Cape Of Good Hope are intended starters in both Royal Ascot legs, the King's Stand Stakes and the Golden Jubilee Stakes.
The inaugural challenge moves on to Japan in September and two Japanese entries have been received for the Golden Jubilee Stakes - Keeneland Swan (Hideyuki Mori) and Precious Café (Futoshi Kojima), who were second and third respectively to Admire Max in the Group One Takamatsunomiya Kinen in March.
A strong and high quality entry from the east has been matched by interest from the west in the form of Soaring Free (Canada, Mark Frostad) and Mighty Beau (USA, Jeff Mullins).
Soaring Free, fourth in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile last year, most recently won the 5½ furlong Group Three Shakertown Stakes on turf at Keeneland, with a neck to spare over Mighty Beau, one of America's highest profile turf sprinters.
The European defence is headed by five entries for Aidan O'Brien, including Group One Middle Park Stakes winner Ad Valorem and Airwave, who chased home Choisir in the Golden Jubilee two years ago.
Miss Emma and former Wokingham winner Ratio, both trained by John Hammond, have been entered for France whilst the Tim Easterby-trained winner of last year's race at Ascot, Fayr Jag, won't have as far to come this year in defence of his title.
"We're delighted with the reception of the Global Sprint Challenge and to have the winners of both Australian races on target for the two Royal Ascot legs is more than we could have hoped for in the first year," said Nick Smith, Head of Public Relations at Ascot.
"We're well on the way with organising shipping for both horses and are now getting into detailed negotiations with the JRA with regards to Japan's possible representatives. It would be marvellous to secure one or both of the North American entries and we're doing all we can, with our colleagues at the International Racing Bureau, to facilitate all these ventures.
"Away from the Golden Jubilee Stakes, which has been the primary focus of our international promotions this year, we're very pleased that Tony Vasil is planning to run Dubai Duty Free winner Elvstroem in either the Queen Anne Stakes or the Prince of Wales's Stakes as part of a wider European campaign. He could face the likes of Bago, Azamour, Phoenix Reach and Rakti in the Prince of Wales's Stakes - all the top names in Europe are in at this stage."
Stephen Allanson, Director of Racing Operations for Racing Victoria, partners with Ascot in the Global Sprint Challenge, said:
"The challenge is really taking off. It's massive news in Australia. Cape Of Good Hope running in both of our legs was a tremendous boost, especially when he became the first horse trained overseas ever to win at Moonee Valley.
"At the very least Fastnet Rock looks the equal of Choisir and he's probably achieved more in Australia than Choisir had before shipping - he's won again and been second twice in Group Ones since the Lightning Stakes and he's with a trainer who knows how to win in England."
Dr. Naoaki Koike, Presidential Counsellor for Foreign Affairs for the Japan Racing Association added:
"The Global Sprint Challenge is an exciting new vehicle to promote thoroughbred racing as an international sport. We are strong believers that thoroughbred racing must have more international development to gain world recognition, and the Global Sprint Challenge will take that onto a higher stage. Precious Café and Keeneland Swan are Japan's best sprinters at this stage and we consider them equivalent to likes of Agnes World. We hope they will prove their ability at Royal Ascot and we look forward to welcoming globe trotting speedsters to Japan this coming Autumn, when we host the final legs of the challenge."