The search for that elusive beast, a Cheltenham Festival candidate, can be conducted at arenas great and small and, after a selection put their credentials on display on King George day at Kempton on Saturday, another may have emerged yesterday from the murk and mud at lowly Fakenham.
And a remarkable horse he is, too. The previous occasion on which Mamlook had stood in a winners' circle was after the Chester Cup, one of the Flat programme's most competitive handicaps, last May and other tremendous efforts during a career that began five years ago in Ireland in Sheikh Hamdan's colours include a head-bob defeat at Royal Ascot, two places in the Cesarewitch and victory in a Grade Two hurdle at Ascot almost a year ago.
The seven-year-old may be a jack of all trades, but he is now master of all. Yesterday was his first run over fences and he completed his debut victory with the minimum of fuss, driven past the more experienced favourite Tullamore Dew on the run-in by Tony McCoy to prevail by three-quarters of a length.
It was Mamlook's first outing for 205 days – he had finished last in the Northumberland Plate on his previous run – but that sort of statistic has never been a negative for an inmate of the David Pipe yard. In a three-runner contest over two miles, five furlongs of the tight Norfolk track, McCoy tracked Tullamore Dew, who had already won twice over fences but was conceding 10lb to the new chasing recruit.
He put up a bold effort but Mamlook's finishing speed was decisive in the closing stages. The gelding, who looked a picture beforehand and was foot-perfect at all bar one of the obstacles in testing conditions, runs in the blue-and-yellow Peter Deal colours made famous by Make A Stand, winner of a Champion Hurdle with McCoy aboard.
"Three-runner races are always tricky, especially at a track like this," said Pipe, who rates the son of Key Of Luck one of his Devon yard's leading novice chase prospects for the season, "and the ground was much softer than ideal, so it was a good performance. Bar that one mistake he jumped really well and, as he takes his racing well, he'll be out again sooner rather than later."
Master Minded will face a maximum of eight rivals in the campaign's next Grade One contest, Saturday's Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot, and has been installed as 4-7 favourite to make it three from three for the season en route to the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Yesterday's acceptors include a pair from the King George-winning stable of Nicky Henderson, Petit Robin and Mad Max and Mamlook's stablemate I'm So Lucky.
Sue Montgomery's Nap
Victrix Gale (4.00 Southwell) Well-related mare who made an eyecatching debut in open-sex company last year. Represents top connections and should be more than capable of opening her account against her own sex.
Belles Beau (4.20 Wolverhampton) Handicap debutante who steps up in trip after return to action following a year off. Her winning full-brother showed his best form over middle distances.
One to watch
Morgans Bay (T R George) had the tickle taken out of his feet in a bumper at Exeter earlier in the month and looks a good prospect for novice hurdles.
Where the money's going
Woolcombe Folly, perceived as Paul Nicholls' Queen Mother Champion Chase second string to Master Minded, has been cut to 7-1 third favourite from 8-1 by Paddy Power.
Chris Mcgrath's Nap
Cape Melody (3.50 Wolverhampton)