Arvika Ligeonniere electric from the front
Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f, 4yo+
AN OUTSTANDING performance from Arvika Ligeonniere has surely put him right into the reckoning for the big novice events at the Cheltenham Festival after Ruby Walsh's mount blitzed his rivals from the front with a fine round of jumping.
The seven-year-old made all the running, scorching ahead from flagfall and jumping beautifully. At one point he must have been nearly 30 lengths in front, and at the line he still had plenty to spare over even-money favourite Dedigout.
Paddy Power immediately cut Willie Mullins' charge into 7-1 (from 16) for the Racing Post Arkle and 10-1 (from 20) for the RSA in March.
"He jumped fantastically and has a tremendous cruising speed, and for now we'll be coming back to two miles with him," said Mullins. "I imagine he'll go to Leopardstown at Christmas for the Racing Post Chase.
This was a very exciting performance and it was clear that his jockey knew what he had under him right from the word go as Walsh blitzed off in front, quickly getting over his obstacles.
As soon as the pair headed out into the country they were well clear and their rivals simply had to hope that the leader would come back to them. He didn't, and although they were closing a bit towards the end of the race, all the other riders were rowing away while Walsh was still on the bridle looking for dangers.
The winner tired a bit in the closing stages and the deficit was bridged slightly, but the gap was too big and the race was all over; in truth he'd destroyed them before halfway.
Arvika Ligeonniere has always been thought of as a very talented horse but he has had his share of injury problems as well as taking a long time to mature. He impressed on his chase debut at Punchestown in May and put his experience to good use here.
Mullins last won this event back in 1999 with Alexander Banquet. His margin of victory was even further - a distance - but he was very much a strong-staying type and, judged by the nature of this success, Arvika Ligeonniere looks a speedier, classier animal.
Given the way he sped off at a fair lick here, the Arkle, rather than the Jewson or the RSA, would seem the logical festival target. That could mean a clash with Nicky Henderson's brilliant grey Simonsig - what a mouthwatering prospect that is right now.