Facile Vega made a winning debut over fences in what looked a red-hot Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase at Navan.
Willie Mullins’ six-year-old, the second foal of his great hurdler Quevega, is already a four-time Grade One winner due to his exploits in bumpers and over hurdles.
The champion trainer has been waxing lyrical about Facile Vega’s schooling at home and while he was ultimately sound over his fences, there was the odd novicey leap during his round, understandably for a first run over bigger obstacles.
One of the Gordon Elliott pair, Saint Felicien, not sighted since being sent off favourite for the Coral Cup in 2022, ensured there was a good gallop and Paul Townend was happy to take a lead.
Townend was tracked throughout by Rachael Blackmore on Henry de Bromhead’s Inthepocket, himself a Grade One winner over timber at Aintree in April.
Grade Two winner Dreal Deal and Spillane’s Tower, a useful hurdler himself, added further strength in depth but they were just out of contention running to the second last.
It was there that 8/15 favourite Facile Vega took up the running from a tiring Saint Felicien and while Inthepocket attempted to close up, the market leader had plenty left as he cleared away from the last to win by three and three-quarter lengths.
Coral make the winner 3/1 second favourite for the Arkle behind Marine Nationale, who lowered his colours at Cheltenham in March.
“He galloped into the first, he just wasn’t really concentrating. It was a messy race to ride in, Jack’s (Kennedy, Saint Felicien) was going left. We would have liked to have a bit more company or to follow one,” said Townend.
“He popped away grand and when we started racing down the straight, I loved what he did at the second last, he stood off it and landed a big distance on the far side of it.
“He was clever at the last, the first day went well anyway. His class kicked in down the straight.
“All of ours are coming on for a run. To win, doing that, I thought was good. When I did ask him, he stood off for me and that’s what you’d be expecting him to do.
“Throughout the race, he was actually very well behaved for him. I’d say he’s maturing and growing up because he had every opportunity to start acting the fool a bit but he didn’t and was more professional. When I wanted him, he was there. He’s matured physically and mentally.”