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Nick Schofield bullish about Irving ahead of Cheltenham Festival

Nick Schofield has sent out an ominous warning to other Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle contenders by insisting Irving will be well suited by better ground at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival if conditions continue to improve.

The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding has been backed into favouritism for the Festival curtain raiser since an impressive five-length defeat of Amore Alato in the Dovecote Novices' Hurdle at Kempton last month.

That was a second Grade 2 success on soft going for the six-year-old, who had previously powered home to beat Volnay De Thaix by six lengths at Ascot, but Schofield is adamant that his mount is capable of making even more progress on a drier surface.

"I wasn’t surprised that Irving won the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton as I expected him to win, although it was his hardest race to date," said Schofield. "Nick Williams’ Amore Alato has won two good novices’ and Alan King’s First Mohican is highly rated. 

"The ground was much softer than Irving would prefer but he still found it very easy. However, I still feel he would be a much better horse on better ground. People must think I am stupid for saying that considering the distance he put between himself and the second horse, but his jumping will be a lot slicker and he will travel a lot better."

Irving began his hurdling career with a Taunton victory on good ground and also handled a decent surface well when showing a neat turn of foot to strike at Ascot in November, after which connections described him as "an aeroplane".

The Flat-bred son of Singspiel also claimed three wins on the level on good ground in Germany, as well another in France when there was some cut underfoot, and Schofield has been mightily impressed by the horse's speed. 

"I am a very lucky person to be able to ride him at Cheltenham," added the jockey on his blog for Exeter racecourse. "He has so much speed and Paul was telling me he hasn’t got a horse fast enough to work with him at home he’s that quick. Stamina is not an issue either. He doesn’t have any kinks in his armour and the only slight worry for me is that the ground might come up soft at Cheltenham."

Irish raiders Vautour and Wicklow Brave have also attracted plenty of support for the Supreme but Irving now looks sure to head the market for the opening battle in the annual war between punters and bookmakers at the Cheltenham Festival.


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Nick Schofield bullish about Irving ahead of Cheltenham Festival

Nick Schofield has sent out an ominous warning to other Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle contenders by insisting Irving will be well suited by better ground at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival if conditions continue to improve.

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