With stablemate Ptit Zig winning nicely ahead of Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up over fences at Ascot on Friday, there looked a change of plan for Paul Nicholls’ Irish Saint.
The contest over 2m looked the aim at Cheltenham initially (he was as short as 14/1), but pitched in against the useful yardsticks of Puffin Billy and Thomas Crapper over 2m5f could have posed a tricky test.
The former misfired and was lucky to escape without injury from a horror fall at the last, having never jumped well, but the Ditcheat runner did what he was asked, and came home well to win.
Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies reported that Irish Saint was more careful at his fences that Ptit Zig, so a longer trip will suit, and with him now proving he stays the distance, a price of 14/1 for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival looks fair enough.
Congestion at the top of Arkle market for Mullins
While one horse erased the Arkle from his likely calendar, Willie Mullins was launching another assault on the upper echelons of the big race market.
Coming down when well in front on chasing debut, much was expected from Un De Sceaux (highlighted by the fact that he was sent off at 1/5).
And in a style he only knows, Ruby Walsh let his mount bound clear, running his plentiful rivals ragged, winning on the bridle.
The race wasn’t full of donkeys either, with Coral Cup fourth Smashing 12l back in second and Grade 3 winning hurdler Minella Foru a whopping 70l back in sixth.
In winning, the six-year-old joined his stablemate Vautour at the top of the market as 5/2 joint-favourites.
The Young Master on RSA charge after Ascot win
In a progression similar to that of Hunt Ball three seasons ago, the rise through the ranks for Neil Mulholland’s The Young Master has been a rapid one.
Starting last season with a ninth placed finish (beaten 37l) in a Class 5 Handicap Hurdle off the mark of 97; a stellar career didn’t look likely for the son of Echo of Light.
But after being disqualified after crossing the line first in the Badger Ales Trophy, he wasn’t to be denied next time out.
In the hands of Barry Geraghty, the five-year-old bounded clear to win the Mappin & Webb Silver Cup at Ascot on Saturday, with Hennessy Gold Cup second Houblon Des Obeaux filling the runners-up spot again.
Rated 144 before that race, he will undoubtedly go up again, and a tilt at a Graded race is surely now in the frame.
If a trip to Cheltenham is on the cards, the RSA Chase would be the obvious race.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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