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Irving boosts Cheltenham Festival hopes with smart Kempton triumph

Irving is vying for favouritism in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle following an impressive win in Saturday's Dovecote Novices' Hurdle at Kempton but vanquished rival First Mohican may now miss the Cheltenham Festival.

The victor made it four straight triumphs over timber when making smooth headway to cruise to the front approaching the final flight and, although not foot-perfect at that obstacle, then sprinting clear of Amore Alato to oblige by five lengths.

Sent off at odds-on for this contest after following up a successful National Hunt bow at Taunton by completing an Ascot double, Irving now heads the Supreme market at the Festival alongside Irish raider Vautour.

Trainer Paul Nicholls said: "He should like better ground and the faster they go at the Festival, the better he'll go. He can sharpen his jumping up a bit, but otherwise I couldn't be more thrilled with him. He doesn't need a lot of work at home, so we can look forward to Cheltenham."

The six-year-old also scored four times on the Flat in Germany and France and has shown he can use that speed to good effect at the end of races over timber, even on sticky ground such as he had to cope with at Kempton.

Jockey Nick Schofield said: "I thought in the early part of the race he wasn't travelling with the same zest as at Ascot but the ground was quite dead and he'll be much better on better ground. He's a very smart animal, we expected him to win this and he has done it well. For that ground he has picked up nicely."

First Mohican had made an encouraging start to his career over hurdles when scoring at Doncaster after four wins on the Flat for the late Sir Henry Cecil but his bubble was burst over the weekend when finishing a distant fourth.

Owner Henry Ponsonby said: "Although he ran to the same level of form, he did not produce the anticipated improvement and his chances of reversing that form with Irving at Cheltenham are remote. He may reroute to Aintree."


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Irving boosts Cheltenham Festival hopes with smart Kempton triumph

Irving is vying for favouritism in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle following an impressive win in Saturday's Dovecote Novices' Hurdle at Kempton but vanquished rival First Mohican may now miss the Cheltenham Festival.

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