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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Quirky Labaik out to follow up Supreme success

Labaik (left): jumping the last at Cheltenham alongside re-opposing rival Melon
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4.20 Punchestown
Herald Champion Novice Hurdle | Grade 1 | 5yo+ | 2m½f | RTE1/ATR

Labaik often refuses to race but was on his best behaviour at Cheltenham last month when he landed the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at 25-1, and connections will be hoping he jumps off and confirms the form with Supreme runner-up Melon.

Labaik's trainer Gordon Elliott reports Jack Kennedy's mount in "great form" for the contest, in which he will face six rivals headed by Melon, who was two and a quarter lengths behind him at Cheltenham.

He said: "We're very happy with Labaik. He's in great form. Everyone knows he can be tricky at the start but if he jumps off as he did at Cheltenham, he'll have a massive chance."

Melon was having only his second run over hurdles when he started favourite at Cheltenham, and Willie Mullins, who is also represented by Cilaos Emery and Bunk Off Early, is hoping the experience he gained on that occasion will stand the five-year-old in good stead. Click here to view his column.

Pingshou, who landed the Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree last time, represents Colin Tizzard having been supplemented for the race at a cost of €10,000.

Pingshou and Robbie Power clear the last in the Top Novices' Hurdle

Tizzard said: "Pingshou looked a really good horse at Aintree. He didn't run between Christmas and Cheltenham so he could take in these festivals, and he might still be an improver.

"He came to me with a health certificate but it is a lesson to us all – we gave him a bit of time and he turned into this."

He added: "This is a championship race and it's very competitive but, if we see a repeat of Aintree, whoever beats him is a very good horse."

Robbie Power, who rode Pingshou to victory at Aintree, partners Forge Meadow for Jessica Harrington, who has the first call of his services.

Harrington said: "Forge Meadow was a bit unsettled when she got to Cheltenham and didn't run to her best in the Grade 2 mares' novices' hurdle. She's in better form now and we're hoping she might pick up some prize-money."

There has been no British-trained winner of the race since Midnight Legend scored for David Nicholson in 1997, but joining Pingshou in the line-up is the Neil Mulholland-trained Peter The Mayo Man.

Mulholland said of the seven-year-old: "He ran well at Kempton last time and I hope this track will suit him."

Everyone knows he can be tricky at the start but if he jumps off as he did at Cheltenham, he'll have a massive chance
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