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  Esprit too good for Irish Hennessy rivals  

Willie Mullins has been in irresistible form this season and landed a remarkable eighth Irish Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown at the weekend when his Quel Esprit completed a hat-trick of wins this season with an authoritative defeat of the gallant Roberto Goldback to land the Grade 1 event and earn himself a place in the line-up for next month’s Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, writes Elliot Slater.

The eight-year failed to complete on each of his final three outings last season, all in Grade 1 company and all when appearing to be in with a chance of victory, but he has turned the corner this term and jumped a great deal better as he proved on Sunday when making the most of the absence of the likes of Synchronised and Quito De La Roque to gallop to a brave two-length success under Ruby Walsh. People looking at the best online Cheltenham Gold Cup betting odds will have been impressed.

Punters made the grey a hot 5/4 favourite and Walsh was determined to make it a decent test and not get caught for toe in a tactical affair, forcing the pace from early on and saving a bit up his sleeve when the runner-up and Follow the Plan both came after him in the home straight. Mullins reckons that Quel Esprit is worth taking to Cheltenham for the blue riband contest but is under no illusions as to the size of the task facing the gelded son of Saint Des Saint who is rated as much as 20lbs inferior to the big race favourite Long Run and the ageless Kauto Star.

That disparity is reflected in his ante-post odds where despite being trimmed by all firms after his Hennessy win Quel Esprit can still be backed at up to 20/1 in places to spring a major shock and take the chasing crown back to Ireland for the first time since War Of Attrition’s famous win in 2006.

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