Little tiger Defi Du Seuil is on a roll and roars loud in JLT Novices' Chase
That's what's so exciting about the Cheltenham Festival – no sooner have you seen a once-in-a-lifetime horse than another turns up a day later.
On Wednesday the air was thick with cheers for the "very special" Tiger Roll, hailed as "some little legend" after landing a remarkable fourth victory at the meeting that surpasses all others.
Yet, whisper it quietly in Gigginstown company, but the one-off may have a similarly diminutive rival for his place in the record books and public affections in years to come.
That's obviously asking a lot of Defi Du Seuil, but he's actually ahead of the game.
Tiger Roll landed the Triumph Hurdle in 2014, then returned to take the National Hunt Chase three years later, whereas it has taken JP McManus' small but athletic jumper just two seasons to show he is much more than just a precocious juvenile by coming back to add victory over fences at Cheltenham.
And few would bet against his adding to his 100 per cent record at the festival judged on the ready way he did the job in the JLT Novices' Chase, jumping and travelling smoothly throughout and winning by two and a quarter lengths from old rival Lostintranslation under Barry Geraghty.
"He's amazing," said trainer Philip Hobbs, who always thought the horse who won seven out of seven as a juvenile hurdler would take to fences, despite his size.
"He's very tough," he continued. "His jumping is fantastic. Actually, sometimes these smaller horses are better at the whole thing, they are more athletic.
"He's a very athletic horse, so I never thought fences were going to be a problem. He was phenomenal today. He's very brave, very sound and very genuine."
Like Tiger Roll, Defi Du Seuil's second jumping season had been anti-climactic. After starting the campaign as a likely Champion Hurdle contender, he was not seen out after February.
Hobbs said: "He ran only twice but the horses weren't 100 per cent healthy and when they're not A1 they're not going to win."
His chase career began with an apparently comprehensive defeat behind Lalor at Cheltenham in November, yet his trainer stressed: "I think it was the sun that day; he ballooned everything going into the sun. Away from the sun he was fine.
"Today he jumped beautifully and had a great run all the way round. It just couldn't have gone better."
Delaying his challenge has made a big difference to a horse who was caught on the run-in by Lostintranslation in the Dipper Novices' Chase here in January, but he has beaten that rival in both clashes since.
"It was amazing how he ever got beaten in that race because he went to the front so easily, then stopped a little bit in front," said Hobbs. "He's obviously better coming late."
Defi Du Seuil is quoted at 6-1 by Ladbrokes and 10-1 by Paddy Power to take another step towards matching Tiger Roll by returning to land the Ryanair Chase in 2020.
"It's too early to even think about next season, but I suppose if I had to guess at this stage it would probably be the Ryanair," Hobbs said. "Barry thinks he could win at any trip, but he's probably best at two and a half miles."
Lostinstranslation jumped particularly well in front under Robbie Power, and trainer Colin Tizzard said: "He seemed to be taking a length and I thought that would all add up at the end, but you could always see that those green and yellow stripes were just going that little bit better."
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