Facile Vega made a winning start to his eagerly-anticipated chasing debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase at Navan.
The four-time Grade 1 winner tracked the pace set by Saint Felicien, who had not sighted since being sent off favourite for the Coral Cup in 2022, and although some novicey jumping throughout, the second foal of the great hurdler Quevega, took up the running from a tiring Gordon Elliot horse.
He quickened up smartly and Willie Mullins' charge soon found himself three and three-quarter lengths clear at the line to land the prize at odds of 8/15.
Coral make the winner 3-1 second favourite for the Arkle.
Townend said: "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,"
"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."