They say it is harder to retain a title than win one in the first place but clearly no-one told Energumene, writes Paul Martin.
The Champion Chase was a rare omission from the Willie Mullins CV before this superstar made light of wet conditions 12 months ago and history repeated itself in the latest renewal.
And just like last year, the victor made light of a so-called head-to-head with a British-trained rival.
For Shishkin in 2022 read Edwardstone this time around, Alan King’s charge never getting going and fading into fifth after a mistake three out, at which point he was briefly threatening a late assault.
Ten lengths was the eventual winning margin, Captain Guinness gamely coming home for second under Rachael Blackmore, to leave Mullins purring after Paul Townend’s pace-setting approach paid off in style.
“We thought the race would be like that tactically, there would never be more than three or four lengths between everything,” he said.
“Nothing has come from back in the field in any races today so Paul wanted to be right there and much more aggressive.
“I let Paul do whatever he wants. He said he wanted to be much more aggressive and I was happy with that, as I was going to tell him the same thing.
“The horse was better, the ground was right and the horse was really right.”
Edwardstone headed the betting earlier this week but Energumene is a horse who relishes rain like a parched lawn in a heatwave-ridden summer and his price grew ever shorter amid persistent drizzle.
He didn’t miss a beat across the 13 fences to take his trainer to four wins for the week, with Mullins now just eight shy of a Festival century.
Energumene’s last trip here saw him beaten into third in the Clarence House Chase in January but this return to form could not have been more emphatic as Mullins maintained his grip on one of this meeting’s most treasured trophies.
“I’m not sure the last day he was quite right,” Mullins added.
"We didn’t expect to go into the first fence so slowly in the Clarence House and we had to go to Plan B, which didn’t work out. Today he was much sharper.”
Townend leapt to his now customary spot at the top of the Festival’s leading jockey standings after this triumph, adding a second Grade 1 of the day to his tally following earlier success on Impaire Et Passe in the Ballymore.
“He [Energumene] was a different horse today,” he said. “It was a dream ride and I was able to take it all in up the straight, which doesn’t usually happen in these championship races.”