Irving: now a 4-1 shot for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' HurdlePICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Irving reigns supreme after hammering rivals
Report: Kempton, Saturday
Sky Bet Dovecote Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m, 4yo+
IRVING surged to the head of the home challenge for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, at least in the bookmakers' eyes, after running out an authoritative winner of the Dovecote.
It was his second success at Grade 2 level and he took his unbeaten record to four over hurdles, all under Nick Scholfield. Sky Bet, who sponsor both the Dovecote and the opening race at next month's Cheltenham Festival, went 4-1 (from 7) with only the Willie Mullins-trained Grade 1 winner Vautour shorter in the betting.
"He's got all the speed in the world and will improve for better ground," said his trainer Paul Nicholls. "Faster ground will also sharpen his jumping. I'm thrilled with that and he won't need to do much now before the Supreme. He's a proper horse."
Irving had been due to contest the Betfair Hurdle but missed the race due to the heavy ground. Here, kept in novice company, he proved himself comfortably better than his six rivals, to the tune of at least five lengths although it would not take the most active of imaginations to think he was value for more.
Scholfield always looked confident on the 4-6 favourite and settled his mount in third through the early part of the race as Amore Alato, a pillar-to-post winner over the course and distance at the Boxing Day meeting, was afforded a lead of several lengths.
Turning for home Richard Johnson still held the advantage on the Nick Williams-trained five-year-old and kicked again, having all behind him in trouble.
All that was except Irving, who travelled supremely well and he put the race to bed in a matter of strides. With Amore Alato holding on for second at 8-1 and another five lengths back to Cup Final, also at 8-1, in third, the impression the winner created once allowed to stride on from the second last was seriously impressive.
"It looks like the winner is a very good horse," said Johnson. "I have gone a good honest gallop and he has kept going and run well but the winner has gone past easily."
Amore Alato's trainer Nick Williams added: "That was a great performance, giving 7lb to Cup Final and the others. He hasn't any Cheltenham entries so will probably go to Aintree next."
Nicky Henderson, trainer of the third Cup Final, said: "He has run very well as when he was second to Irving something galloped into the back of him and it took a couple of months for him to recover."
First Mohican, the 5-1 second favourite, disappointed in fourth.
Balder Success (right): is unlikely to go to the Cheltenham FestivalPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Also on Sunday
BetBright Mobile Pendil Novices' Chase (Grade 2) 2m4½f, 5yo+
JUST 14 days after winning his first Graded race Balder Succes took his tally to two, taking the step up to two and a half miles comfortably in his long stride as he put in another fine round of jumping to land the Pendil at 9-4 by a length and a quarter from 6-1 shot God's Own.
Loose Chips cut out the early running under Noel Fehily, but set nothing more than a solid gallop. As the pace increased five from home all that had happened was Tchang Goon had been shown the back door.
But once Fox Appeal moved alongside Loose Chips the race was on and with the increase in pace Balder Succes's superior jumping saw him ease into contention around the outside of the field.
Once in the home straight there only looked like being one winner, unless the stamina of Balder Succes did not last out. It did. Comfortably. And he won in fine style.
"I don't think he goes to Cheltenham - the owners are not keen," said his trainer Alan King. "There is Aintree and Punchestown and today's win opens up alternatives as he has seen out the longer trip well - we rode him slightly differently today, not quite so aggressively.
"The owners just don't want to go to Cheltenham. It is nothing to do with him not handling the track - he would have bolted up there in October but for the sun in his eyes at the second-last."
Tom George, trainer of the runner-up God's Own, said: "Paddy [Brennan - jockey] just felt that having him to pull him around horses might have cost him in the end but you've got to be delighted. He's still very babyish and is a nice prospect. Going right-handed is key and he's a possible for Punchestown."
On the 5-4 favourite Fox Appeal, who finished third, Emma Lavelle said: "He didn't deserve to be beaten but he's just that bit better on better ground. Aintree is on the agenda but he would want better ground. He was very brave over the last two and is an exciting chaser."