Triumph favourite Glory grinds out gutsy win
The record books say Joseph O'Brien has yet to train a winner of the JCB Triumph Hurdle, but bookmakers continue to believe he could change that in March with Landofhopeandglory, who retained his unbeaten jumping record with a battling success in the Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle.
The son of High Chaparral won nothing more than a Galway maiden for Aidan O'Brien, but a series of fine efforts in defeat showed him to be a talented performer on the Flat. He seems poised to take much higher rank over hurdles.
This, however, was hardly a dazzling display, and there will be people - including owner Rich Ricci - who believe runner-up Bapaume, making his Irish debut for Willie Mullins after being recruited from France, might well have upset the Barry Geraghty-ridden evens favourite but for blundering at the Grade 3 contest's final flight.
That proved costly and he went down by a length to now three-time hurdles winner Landofhopeandglory, shortened into a best-priced 8-1 for the Triumph. Bapaume is widely quoted between 10-1 and 20-1.
O'Brien - whose 2016 Triumph winner Ivanovich Gorbatov was officially trained by his father - has a number of other exciting Ballydoyle transfers to unleash, including Housesofparliament and Sword Fighter, but in the J P McManus-owned Landofhopeandglory he already has a smart recruit.
"That was his biggest test so far and we'd have to think about Christmas now," said O'Brien.
"It will be one step at a time with him, but you'd be delighted with today. The faster they go for him the better he'll be. He jumped better today as well and was a bit more measured."
Keen to reoppose the winner at Leopardstown later this month is Ricci, who said: "That was a very good run. If he hadn't dragged his feet through the last he might have won."