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Irving jockey dismisses any Cheltenham Festival stamina doubts

Jockey Nick Schofield feels Irving only has to reproduce the form he has shown in four straight wins over timber to be a major player in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

The six-year-old was switched to Paul Nicholls after winning four times on the Flat in Germany and France and has now matched that tally of victories in the National Hunt arena.

Irving showed a fine turn of foot to follow up a debut strike at Taunton with two Ascot triumphs, with the form of his second success at the Berkshire track subsequently being franked by third-placed Splash Of Ginge landing the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Then last Saturday he comfortably came through his final prep race before the Festival when easily getting the better of Amore Alato, Cup Final and First Mohican in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Dovecote Novices' Hurdle at Kempton.

"He's done nothing wrong in all his four starts now and won every one in similar fashion, so hopefully he can do the same on his fifth start," said Schofield, who is on course for his best ever season after a 46th triumph of the current campaign over the weekend.

"He'd taken all his previous races in the same manner, so I was hoping for something similar. The horse he beat in second is rated 134 and he handled him readily enough, so I think the form is solid, especially with First Mohican back in there as well. It was a good race."

There have been some question marks over whether Irving will be as effective at a stiff track like Cheltenham, where other leading contenders will surely look to blunt his finishing speed by applying plenty of pressure before the uphill finish.

However, Schofield is far from concerned by such a prospect, insisting that a strongly-run race will suit his mount even more, as long as conditions at Prestbury Park are not too testing.

"He is smart and he does all his work at home really well," added the rider on At The Races. "He had the Flat form and has taken to jumping very well. He used to be a bit keen, so the faster they go the better. He won over 1m 5f on the Flat, beating Kasbah Bliss, who was a thourough stayer, so stamina is not a worry, as long as it's not heavy ground.

"When he won at Ascot he was giving Splash Of Ginge weight and he went on and won the Betfair Hurdle, so all the form is working out pretty solid and hopefully he'll perform on the day at Cheltenham."

Trainer Paul Nicholls knows what it takes to land the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, having struck with Noland in 2006 and Al Ferof three years ago. 


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Irving jockey dismisses any Cheltenham Festival stamina doubts

Jockey Nick Schofield feels Irving only has to reproduce the form he has shown in four straight wins over timber to be a major player in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

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