Chris Pea Green reveals his true colours to enter Triumph picture
It would be gratifying if the bookmakers were made to regret a rather snooty response to what looked a perfectly legitimate trial for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Huntingdon. For they would certainly have shown greater respect had any among his victims, hailing from more fashionable yards, happened to win the 32Red Chatteris Fen Hurdle in the same style as Chris Pea Green. As it was, they appear to have decided that he was merely exploiting a collective failure to run to form, and still offer 33-1 for Cheltenham next month.
Mind you, his trainer does seem as astonished by his progress as they remain sceptical. And Gary Moore also confessed a preference to hold back Chris Pea Green for a similarly sharp track at Aintree in April, while granting that his owners were now keen to kick on to Cheltenham. Either way, this horse has now won three of his four starts, including his maiden hurdle by 20 lengths, disappointing only in an all-weather bumper. Taking up the running three out under Moore's son, Joshua, Chris Pea Green surged away to win by seven lengths and more from several previous winners.
"He has gone and made the biggest idiot ever out of me," Moore said. "He won a bumper here I thought was a donkey race, then I should never have run him on the all-weather. I was amazed how easily he won at Lingfield last time, but thought the race no good. And today I was worried about his jumping on better ground."
The horse does need to sharpen up his technique, but could be expected to settle better granted a stronger pace at the Festival. "I was half thinking he wouldn't get home," his jockey admitted. "The race fell away a bit and he ended up in front too soon, and very lonely. But I was in a rhythm, didn't want to break it, and was impressed by the way he kept on."
Another novice who will proceed to Cheltenham with a most progressive profile is African Gold, whose relentless style brought an end to the unbeaten record of Close Touch up at Doncaster. He is 20-1 from 25-1 with William Hill for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, though perhaps the most eye-catching Festival trial of the day came from Mr Mole at Taunton. Making his handicap debut, he cruised past a rival who had won his last five races in Home Run, and it would be no surprise to see him in the County Hurdle.
Willie Mullins continues to marshal his cavalry in intimidating fashion, sharing four winners with Ruby Walsh at Clonmel. These included Inish Island, a possible rival for African Gold in the Albert Bartlett, and Call The Police, who jumped very well in seeing off some deteriorating rivals and could yet join his stable's very strong team for the John Smith's Grand National.
Hibernating Flat fans were meanwhile stirred by the news that a full-brother to Frankel, described as "attractive, with size and scope", was born at Juddmonte's Banstead Manor Stud on Saturday. Their mother, Kind, will naturally be returning to Galileo for her next tryst.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Islandmagee (1.10 Kempton) Shaped well on his return from a break and now enters handicap company on a fair opening mark.
Sleep In First (4.10 Newcastle) Needs to make it third time lucky over fences just to get round – but was cruising in front when coming down three out last time.
One to watch
Point-to-point winner Minella Fifty (Jonjo O'Neill) Travelled strongly until tiring in the straight on his debut under Rules at Doncaster.
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