The Paul Nicholls-trained Irving was an easy winner of the Dovecote Novices' Hurdle and has enhanced his claims for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle...
"The Paul Nicholls-trained Irving was an easy winner of the Dovecote Novices' Hurdle and has enhanced his claims for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle..."
Amore Alato opened an early advantage as he bowled along keenly, but Nick Scholfield and Irving were always moving ominously well and were spotted cruising coming to two from home. Easing effortlessly to the front before the last, there was a very minor scare as the 4-6 favourite reached for the final obstacle but he was soon on an even keel and strolled five lengths clear of Amore Alato, taking his record over timber to four from four.
Scholfield said: "I just thought in the early part of the race he wasn't travelling with the same zest as at Ascot but the ground was quite dead and he'll be much better on better ground. He's a very smart animal, we expected him to win this and he has."
Nicholls said: "He'd like better ground and the faster they go, the better he'll go.He can sharpen his jumping up a bit, but I couldn't be more thrilled with him. He doesn't need a lot of work, so we can look forward to Cheltenham (Supreme Novices' Hurdle)."
Irving now trades at [4.6] for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, with Vautour narrowly shading things at [4.2].
Earlier on the card, Balder Succes, who is the highest-rated British-trained novice chaser on Timeform's figures, jumped well to win the Pendil Novices' Chase, though he is unlikely to go to the Festival.
Wayne Hutchinson was happy to let things unfold in front of him and launched his challenge halfway down the home straight, eventually staying on a length and a quarter clear of the rallying God's Own.
"We didn't ride him as aggressively today, and it gives us options," said trainer Alan King.
"I don't think he goes to Cheltenham - the owners aren't keen on it - and that's why he ran today. He can go to Aintree and Punchestown, though."