Cheltenham Festival winner Iroko couldn't have made a better start to his chasing career with a three and a quarter lengths victory at Warwick on Tuesday. The ex-French gelding won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle in March before being placed in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree. Jumping well throughout, Jonjo O'Neill jnr bided his time early on before moving up leaving the backstraight. The son of Cokoriko was still on the bridle when moving upsides Grade 2 winning hurdler Golden Son before sauntering away. Even allowing for the fact Paul Nicholls indicated beforehand that the runner-up would improve 'enormously' for the outing, Iroko was most impressive and looked every inch a Grade 1 winning chaser in the making. It will be interesting to see where he goes next and over what trip. The Brown Advisory Novices' Chase at Cheltenham is his most likely spring target but it wouldn't be a surprise if he lined up in the Turners Novices' Chase the following day. Long-term, he looks future Cheltenham Gold Cup material.
It was a good day for the Top 40 Prospects past and present on Tuesday. In addition to Iroko, both Imagine and An Tobar - who featured in the Top 40 last season, scored at Fairyhouse. The former, in particular, was an emphatic winner on his fencing bow under Jack Kennedy. Five lengths in arrears of Iroko in the Martin Pipe in March, the Montmartre gelding looks set to make a better chaser and is expected to return to the same track for the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase (3rd December) - the entries for the two and a half miles event will be published tomorrow.
The Unraced Bumper Horse section in One Jump Ahead has made an encouraging start with Celtic Dino making a winning start at Ascot last Saturday. Excelero ran well on his racecourse bow at Warwick on Tuesday. Jane Williams' charge was green early on but learned on the job. After holding every chance after the second last, the three year old found Salver too strong after the last in the juvenile hurdle. The Castle Du Berlais gelding can only improve for the experience and could be hard to beat next time.
Finally, sad news broke on Tuesday morning that trainer David Brown has passed away. Responsible for 10 Pattern winners, including Frederick Engels's success in the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2011, David was a gentleman and always keen to chat when seeing him at the racecourse. I will never forget him buying my former much missed colleague Tom O'Ryan and myself an ice cream after training a winner at Beverley.
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