Quel Esprit jumps to head of Ireland's Gold Cup hopefuls

 

The novice chasers who did look the part last season have largely failed to do so since entering open company. Yet the one who finally made the grade, at Leopardstown yesterday, failed to get round in three of his first four steeplechases. For all that Quel Esprit did not beat a vintage field in the Hennessy Gold Cup, then, he may yet continue to confound expectations.

If anything, the grey now looks a fairly flamboyant jumper, his confidence having been restored by Willie Mullins with a couple of gentler assignments. And while this looked a pedestrian test, by Grade One standards, his performance qualifies him as Ireland's most eligible candidate for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which he is 14-1 from 20-1 with the sponsors.

Under a positive ride by Ruby Walsh, he had most of his pursuers in trouble turning in. Though Roberto Goldback did throw down a challenge, responding well to blinkers, Quel Esprit seemed to idle on the run-in and was always retaining a two-length advantage.

Though Walsh pronounced the form "a stone" short of the standard required in the Gold Cup, Quel Esprit will at least relish the test of stamina and jumping. "He likes to go a really good gallop," Walsh said. "He was unlucky when he fell in his races last year. When we schooled the novices 18 months ago, he was the best jumper."

Mullins, saddling his eighth Hennessy winner, added: "We always thought he was a fantastic jumper at home, and were surprised when he fell a couple of times last year. He had a wind operation, which might have helped, or it could be that he's a stronger, more mature horse this season."

The champion trainer had a disappointing start to proceedings when Ut De Sivola trailed in a distant seventh behind Hisaabaat in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle. The winner had been second on his three previous starts, but this time Dermot Weld fitted him with blinkers and he was given a fine waiting ride by Andrew Lynch. Weld won this race last year with Unaccompanied, who went on to finish second in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, and Hisaabaat could certainly get involved this time round. "When things go right for him, he's very good," Weld said. "The visor helped him concentrate. He comes off a strong pace and he battles so the Triumph might just be the making of him."

The other novice hurdle, the Deloitte, produced a 50-1 shock as Benefficient profited from a fine ride from the front by Bryan Cooper, gaining first run on Sous Les Cieux and holding on by just over a length. Cash And Go and Captain Conan both dropped right out, but the runner-up settled much better under a patient ride this time and could well reverse the form at the Festival. Either way, the celebrations in the winner's enclosure – his owner appeared to have brought over most of his clientele from an Irish bar in New York – will ensure that Benefficient has many friends at Cheltenham. "From the day we got him we thought he was a very good horse," said his trainer, Tony Martin. "And he's proved it today."

Whatever Quel Esprit might achieve, the next crop of novices are shaping up very convincingly. Martin had saddled Bog Warrior to another easy win at Naas the previous day, and Last Instalment continued to look a class act in the Moriarty Novices' Chase, though Philip Fenton, his trainer, warned he might not go to the Festival unless he gets soft ground.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Enery (4.10 Wolverhampton)

Discarded by Godolphin after looking one of their lesser juveniles last year, but feasibly treated if improving as expected for this longer distance.

Next best: Hambleton (2.40 Wolverhampton)

Showed a bit more on return from a break last time and can confirm that he is back on a competitive mark.

One to watch: De Boitron (Ferdy Murphy) has been out of form but a strong finish for third at Musselburgh on Saturday suggests he could again get involved in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham next month.

Where the money's going: Long Run is 2-1 from 9-4 with the sponsors to retain the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

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

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone