If you were told a few weeks ago that Willie Mullins would be winning his ninth Garde 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse on Sunday in 2021, you would have gone through a fair few guesses before getting to Statuaire.
Kilcruit, Sir Gerhard, Classic Getaway, Dysart Dynamo, Dark Raven and Grangeclare West are all 20-1 or shorter in the market for the Supreme Novices', but it was the winner of a Downpatrick maiden hurdle and a little Wexford novice event that provided Ireland's champion trainer with his first Grade 1 of the season.
When asked how surprised he was on a scale of one to ten, Mullins replied: "I'd say about five".
Statuaire didn't look the most likely Royal Bond winner two hurdles out either as favourite My Mate Mozzie skipped clear and Danny Mullins was still only fourth on the 12-1 shot, but he conjured a late surge out of her to get up in the dying strides.
Mullins said: "I had her entered in the handicap but thought if ever you were going to win a Grade 1, this was your chance and that's why I ran her in it.
"She can run in a handicap every day of her life, but I felt with the experience she had in France before she came here and the way she jumped, she could come here.
"We hadn't asked her many questions and she had won two out of two. I thought 'who knows how good she is'. She's had a break since she last ran and got hugely strong during that time. She filled out.
"She improved and a lot of things fell her way. A lot of the runners got racing too far out which gave Danny a chance to settle his mare and come with one run. He timed it to perfection."
Mullins admitted that Statuaire's success boded well for the rest of his novice hurdlers who have yet to appear this season.
"I suppose it does [bode well for them], but I hadn't thought about it like that. Statuaire hasn't done anything wrong and she can't help what she beat before. They mightn't have been great races but she was still able to win them.
"She will go on to Leopardstown for the Grade 1 and you'd have to say the mares' novice at Cheltenham would be the target."
It was a frustrating afternoon for trainer Gavin Cromwell, who hit the crossbar in both the Royal Bond and the Drinmore, but he was very pleased with the performance of the runner-up, My Mate Mozzie.
Cromwell said: "He ran a blinder. It was a stop-start race. He was a bit keen and then got under the last, but, look, he ran well."
Mighty Potter stayed on strongly for third having been outpaced when the sprint started. He should have more to offer over the remainder of the campaign.
Afterwards, Statuaire was introduced at 10-1 for the mares' novice hurdle at the festival by BoyleSports.
🗣️“You’d have to say the Mares’ Novices’ at Cheltenham would be the obvious target, but if she keeps improving she might go down the other route.” - Willie Mullins— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 28, 2021
Statuaire pulls out all the stops to chin My Mate Mozzie in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle @Fairyhouse 💪