Bobs Worth was slashed in price for the Cheltenham Gold Cup following his outstanding victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday.
Nicky Henderson’s inmate is available at no bigger than 5-1 for the blue riband of jumps racing in March after proving his undoubted potential at the Berkshire circuit.
Already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner in the Albert Bartlett and, last season, in the RSA Chase, the 4-1 favourite took the race by three and a quarter-lengths from top-weight Tidal Bay.
“He was potentially the classiest horse in the race and if he’s going to get to the top, he had to win here, but it’s mighty nice to win, whatever it holds for the future,” said Henderson.
“Barry [Geraghty] has said before that he does need to go left-handed so I would say the King George is out of the equation and it’s just a matter of plotting a gentle route back to Cheltenham.”
Tidal Bay, and the third, First Lieutenant, could go for the Lexus Chase next, a race suggested by Henderson for Bobs Worth last week.
Tidal Bay’s trainer, Paul Nicholls, had earlier seen mighty stayer Big Buck’s continue to demolish all before him in taking his winning run to a staggering 18 in the Sportingbet Long Distance Hurdle. The nine-year-old, ridden by Ruby Walsh, was hardly out of a hack canter as he took this race for the fourth successive year at odds of 1-12.
Nicholls, who had two other winners on the card, said: “He is very professional and that will put him right for the Grade One at Ascot in three weeks’ time [Long Walk Hurdle].”
John Quinn is dreaming of Champion Hurdle glory after Countrywide Flame scooted home in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
Last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner captured the scalp of Supreme Novices’ scorer Cinders And Ashes in some style.
The two Cheltenham Festival victors had the race to themselves over the last two flights, and it was Countrywide Flame (11-4) who came out on top by 12 lengths under Denis O’Regan.
“This year he has improved a stone on the flat and he had to improve a stone over hurdles to be a real Champion Hurdle horse. Looking at that you’d say he has improved,” said North Yorkshire-based Quinn.
“There’s the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and I’ve also put him in the Istabraq Hurdle at Leopardstown – I think we’ll probably go to Ireland. Then he’ll have another run, then he’ll go for the Champion Hurdle.”
Arvika Ligeonniere looked a potential star of the future as he led a Willie Mullins treble on a big afternoon at Fairyhouse yesterday. In making every yard of the two-and-a-half-mile Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase, the Rich Ricci-owned seven-year-old earned quotes of single figures for the Arkle at Cheltenham in March.
Mullins said: “He was very impressive. He did it very well, his jumping was fantastic. He has the jumping ability, along with the pace. Until we see that he’s not able to do it over two miles we’ll go that way first. We’ll look at Christmas now [at Leopardstown].”
Stan James were impressed and cut the winner to 8-1 from 16s for the Arkle.
Mullins, Walsh and Ricci struck again as Zaidpour dug deep to claim the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, showing a great attitude in going past fellow joint-favourite Voler La Vedette going to the last. A clash with Big Buck’s looks in the offing for Zaidpour at Cheltenham. Mullins said: “I think he’s improved so we’ll go along those lines [Ladbrokes World Hurdle].”
The Mullins treble was brought up in the bumper as Outlander (4-1) stayed on strongly to score under the trainer’s son, Patrick. However, there was a reverse for the Mullins team, with Champagne Fever finding Jezki too good as Jessica Harrington’s charge recorded a hat-trick in the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
Harrington said: “The Supreme Novices’ (Hurdle) is the long-term target as he’s a two-miler. We’ll have to discuss plans with the owner but he’ll have at least one more run before Cheltenham.
“He could easily run at Christmas [if the ground is good] and after that I don’t know. He’s only four and he’s bound to improve a bit for more experience.”