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Monkfish slashed for more Cheltenham Festival glory after slick chase debut

Monkfish and Paul Townend put in a clean jump at the last fence at Fairyhouse
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Monkfish has been cut into 4-1 favouritism for what used to be called the RSA Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after a slick debut over fences at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

The Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned six-year-old was already disputing ante-post favouritism for the Grade 1 with Envoi Allen, who is set to be in action in the Drinmore at the same course on Sunday.

However, Monkfish is now the outright market leader at 4-1 (from 7) after a taking first chase start under Paul Townend.

Watch a replay of Monkfish's Fairyhouse win here

Monkfish was already something of a star after winning three of his four races over hurdles for Willie Mullins last season, including a game success in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the festival, beating Latest Exhibition by a neck with Fury Road a further nose behind and Friday's impressive Long Distance Hurdle winner Thyme Hill in fourth.

Monkfish is the centre of attention after winning the opening race at Fairyhouse

But he returned in style to continue the recent fine form of the Mullins stable, particularly with their novice chasers, and looked a class above his rivals at Fairyhouse, sitting just off Sam's Profile for the majority of the race before taking up the lead four out and cantering clear under Townend, with four lengths back to his pushed along stablemate Ontheropes at the line.

Winning jockey Townend said: "He just needed one squeeze coming down to the last and he picked up well. You couldn't have asked for any more and his jumping was very good."

The 2m5f beginners' chase that opened the two-day Fairyhouse Winter festival has often thrown up a star, with Sir Des Champs using the race as a springboard for his chasing career in 2011, while Mount Benbulben won it in 2012, The Storyteller in 2017 and Carefully Selected last year.

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He just needed one squeeze coming down to the last and he picked up well
E.W. Terms