Olly Murphy nominated Champagnesuperover as his horse to follow for the season in One Jump Ahead and the lightly raced six year old came good at the third time of asking over hurdles at Ayr on Monday. Runner-up on his jumping bow at Stratford in October (track and trip too sharp), he then finished fourth at Chepstow the following month. The Jeremy gelding underwent a wind operation soon afterwards and he returned to action at the Scottish track, where he won a bumper just over a year ago. Contesting a two and a half miles maiden hurdle and wearing a tongue tie for the first time, Adrian Heskin's mount travelled strongly throughout and only had to be nudged out to win by five and a half lengths. Rated 115 beforehand, it will be interesting to see how the handicapper reacts because there is no doubt he is well treated. Ultimately, three miles won't be an issue. Back in third was Bass Rock and, while no match for the winner, he remains of interest once going down the handicap route. A slick jumper, Sandy Thomson's charge is good enough to win over timber before going chasing next season.
The Grade 3 Skybet Killiney Novice Chase at Punchestown on Sunday didn't quite live up to the billing with second favourite Asterion Forlonge hitting the deck at the first fence. However, it is always a pleasure to see Envoi Allen in action and Gordon Elliott's superstar extended his unbeaten career record to 12 races with another fine display. Forced to cut out the running, the seven year old jumped beautifully and only had to be shaken up on the run-in to win hard held by three and a half lengths. His trainer indicated afterwards that the Cheveley Park Stud owned gelding will head straight to Cheltenham in March for the Marsh Novices' Chase. He will only take part in the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown next month if Irish runners are prevented from travelling to the UK.
While the winning margin may have flattered the runner-up Fils D'Oudairies, I wouldn't be in a rush to underestimate Joseph O'Brien's gelding. Featured in the French Revolution section in OJA, he has improved with each start over fences winning at Navan last time. A big strapping gelding by Saint Des Saints, he won over hurdles at Auteuil in November 2019 when handled by David Cottin. Yet to race beyond two and a half miles, the six year old gives the impression he will stay further. Having only raced half a dozen times, he has plenty more to offer.
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