Allaho was shortened to 5-4 favourite (from 7-4) by Paddy Power and BoyleSports for a repeat victory in the Ryanair Chase after a performance of complete authority in winning this Thurles Grade 2 for the second straight year on Sunday.
Twelve months ago in this race, the giant French-bred was unconvincing in his jumping in beating stablemate Elimay by a workmanlike three lengths.
This was different. He was a little sticky over the first couple of fences, but as he warmed to his task everything started to come into place.
A spectacular jump two out had all of his rivals sending out distress signals and so full of running was he that he was overly brave at the last and gave supporters and connections their only anxious moment.
He came home 12 lengths clear of Fakir D'Oudairies, the same margin of victory he enjoyed over that rival in last year's Ryanair Chase.
Quite a weekend it has been for winning trainer and rider Willie Mullins and Paul Townend after the near miss of Energumene at Ascot on Saturday. In a normal year Mullins might be considering a crack at the Champion Chase for Allaho, but it seems he will be traversing more familiar terrain at Cheltenham.
Mullins said: “For him, I thought he was very iffy over the first few fences and maybe he needed a bit of company. He didn't really start to jump until about the fourth or fifth fence.
"Paul said he was only really warming up coming down the straight and was flying at the finish. Paul was a bit more positive on him today.
“That's probably it now until Cheltenham and I would imagine the Ryanair will be his target. I would have loved him to have jumped better early on today, but I imagine that was more due to ring-rust than anything else, and the start here is near a bend coming away from the stables and the parade ring.
"There are a lot of things going on and I think he was just looking at everything. But he got his act together and he was very good at the finish.”
Asked if there was a possibility of Allaho running in the Champion Chase, Mullins joked; “That's how we're going to beat Shishkin is it? Bring in the A-Team! I don't think so, the Ryanair is the target.”
Runner-up Fakir D'Oudairies made a mistake at the first, which he was fortunate to get away with, and was unable to make any impression on the winner.
Trainer Joseph O'Brien said: “It was a good run. He made a mistake at the first but I thought he jumped well after that and it should set him up for the spring. He ran well at Cheltenham last year and won at Aintree, so hopefully he'll be busy over the next few months.”
Notebook faded in the straight to finish third and last under Rachael Blackmore, beaten over 20 lengths. Fellow Gigginstown raider Battleoverdoyen was beaten when taking a heavy fall at the final fence. The horse and rider Jack Kennedy got to their feet.
🐴 Allaho— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 23, 2022
🏆 Grade 1 Ryanair Chase
🏆 Grade 1 John Durkan Chase
🥇 2x Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase
⭐ Star chaser for @CPStudOfficial
Back-to-back victories in this Grade 2 contest for the eight-year-old, who wins under @PTownend for @WillieMullinsNH at @thurlesraces 👏 pic.twitter.com/9qq5BOnwaK