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Irving 'doing well' ahead of Supreme Novices' Hurdle says Nicholls

Paul Nicholls will be looking to get the 2014 Cheltenham Festival off to a flying start with Irving in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle and reports his unbeaten charge in fine fettle.

The Ditcheat handler has enjoyed past success in the annual curtain raiser with Noland in 2006 and Al Ferof three years ago and believes his new rising star can also make a big impression at Prestbury Park.

After winning four of his six Flat races in Germany and France before switching to Britain, the six-year-old has certainly taken well to the National hunt game, scoring at Taunton before landing an eye-catching Ascot double.

With Nick Schofield in the saddle, Irving has made a habit of producing a superb turn of foot in the closing stages to beat some well-regarded rivals in emphatic fashion and Nicholls sees no reason why he shouldn't also shine at Cheltenham.

The form of his most recent success just before Christmas was franked when third-placed Splash Of Ginge went on to land the valuable Betfair hurdle at Newbury and he has twice got the better of strongly-fancied Nicky Henderson runners.

"We've just minded him a little bit of late as we were going to run him in the Tolworth and then the Betfair, but with the ground as bad as it is we decided not to run as we want to go to Cheltenham with him and then possibly also Aintree," said Nicholls.

"I'm thrilled with the way he looks at the moment, physically he's doing well and he's just starting to come in his coat which is what you always want to see at this time of year. He could run in the Dovecote next week but I wouldn't run him if it was heavy.

"I'd like to get a run, or maybe a racecourse gallop, into him before Cheltenham. I'd love to go for the Dovecote and get more experience into him over hurdles, but he's progressed, got loads of speed, jumps nicely and hopefully we haven't even seen the best of him yet."

Irish raiders Vautour and Wicklow Brave will be tough nuts to crack in the Supreme but if Irving is in contention at the final flight, his trademark late burst could well prove decisive up the Cheltenham hill.


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Irving 'doing well' ahead of Supreme Novices' Hurdle says Nicholls

Paul Nicholls will be looking to get the 2014 Cheltenham Festival off to a flying start with Irving in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle and reports his unbeaten charge in fine fettle.

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