Ligeonnaire blazes the trail to Festival for Irish novices

Mullins aims for Arkle Chase with Fairyhouse winner while Zaidpour earns tilt at Big Buck's

The tenure of Bobs Worth as new favourite for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup could well prove a brief one, should either Flemenstar or Sir Des Champs establish a definitive superiority in their showdown at Punchestown on Sunday. But these are by no means the only young prospects stimulating a sense of renewal in Irish jump racing. For while Bobs Worth can hardly be counted an overnight sensation, with Cheltenham Festival wins already to his name over both hurdles and fences, yesterday's card at Fairyhouse volunteered breakthrough performances by emerging stars in both disciplines.

None had greater éclat than Arvika Ligeonnaire, who produced a breathtaking display in the Drinmore Novice Chase. Having returned from a long absence with a stylish chasing debut at Punchestown in May, he almost seemed intent on making up for lost time when charging into the lead under Ruby Walsh, soon opening up by fully 20 lengths. His four distant pursuers pinned their hopes on the possibility that his exuberance might leave him vulnerable in the closing stages, but he was still tanking along as he turned into the straight and was merely pushed out to see off Dedigout by 11 lengths.

The hallmarks of this performance, over the intermediate trip of two and a half miles, had been slick jumping and tremendous energy – and Arvika Ligeonnaire's obvious Festival target would seem to be the Racing Post Arkle Chase, for which he is 7-1 from 16-1 with Paddy Power. "He was just relentless and I'd have no worries going back in trip with him," Walsh said. "He was a bit keen and took me on, he went some gallop. He really attacks his fences, and has always had a big engine."

Willie Mullins is already entertaining a drop back in trip. "He has a tremendous cruising speed and we wouldn't be afraid to go back to two miles," the champion trainer confirmed. "That's maybe his job. He was very fast over the first four fences. But he has the jumping ability, along with the pace. His jumping was fantastic."

Mullins is eager to give the seven-year-old more experience, starting at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting. Connections of Dedigout, meanwhile, had every reason to be satisfied, as he pulled well clear of the rest. Stamina is his forte and, still lightly raced, Dedigout could yet enter the equation for the RSA Chase at the Festival.

This was one of three Grade Ones on the card, all sponsored by Bar One Racing, from which Mullins and Walsh would end up with two winners and a second. Zaidpour won the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, too determined for Voler La Vedette after she had moved smoothly into the lead as the field bunched on the home turn. The mare is missing her old spark just now, and was ultimately overtaken by Monksland for second, as Zaidpour was driven out to win by two and a half lengths. Mullins indicated that the winner would be aimed at the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in March, and the sponsors cut his odds from 25-1 to 12-1.

Nonetheless, it requires a vivid imagination to picture Zaidpour proving the horse competent finally to end the reign of Big Buck's. The champion had looked as good as ever on his reappearance at Newbury the previous day, outclassing three inferiors as he coasted to his 18th consecutive success.

Zaidpour's connections had also hoped to land the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, arguably the most competitive race in the division so far, with Champagne Fever. But last season's top bumper horse could not draw the string from Jezki, who headed him on the run-in before edging a length and a half clear – completing a fine weekend for Barry Geraghty, who had ridden Bobs Worth to win the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. Jezki had tended to jump left but has now won all three starts over timber, and Jessica Harrington will now prepare him for the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival – for which the sponsors halved his price to 8-1.

"He'll have at least one more run before Cheltenham," Harrington said. "He's only four and is bound to improve a bit for more experience. I was a little bit worried about going right-handed for the first time. But he was straight and true where it mattered, and when they were going a bit quicker he concentrated more. He has always wanted better ground. The whole family want it on top."

Like Dedigout, Champagne Fever is no lost cause with longer trips in mind. Another smart novice, meanwhile, announced himself when Our Conor followed up his debut success at Navan in the juvenile hurdle. His trainer, Dessie Hughes, saluted him as "a natural" and is another with Leopardstown at Christmas on his agenda. Coral quote Our Conor at 12-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Turf account

CHRIS McGRATH'S NAP: Lyric Ballad (4.00 Wolverhampton)

Has been learning the ropes in maidens and really seemed to cotton on in her third spin.

NEXT BEST: Chookie Hamilton (1.25 Wolverhampton)

Immediate rejuvenation from this veteran when well backed on his first start for a new stable round here last week.

ONE TO WATCH OUT FOR: Chief Executive (Mikael Magnusson), a well-bred juvenile in shrewd hands, made a promising start when fourth at Wolverhampton last week, travelling sweetly until flattening out late.

WHERE THE MONEY'S GOING: Teaforthree is 6-1 from 8-1 for the Coral Welsh National with William Hill.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend