"In recent years, John McConnell has accomplished success at the early winter fixtures at Cheltenham with his experienced novice hurdlers: Streets of Doyen won a staying novice hurdle last October at Prestbury Park, and Bardenstown Lad could be earmarked for the corresponding race in 2021, and he would have bright prospects of a stable repeat given good ground," wrote Declan Phelan on page 155 of One Jump Ahead in his Irish Pointers article. That prediction proved spot on as the six year old justified strong market support (6/1 into 85/40) winning the three miles novice hurdle by a length on the first day of Cheltenham's Showcase meeting. John McConnell's gelding was winning over hurdles for the third time and is a strong stayer. The further he went, the better he looked having come off the bridle some way from home. Sean Bowen pushed the Black Sam Bellamy gelding out on the run-in and it would be no surprise if he is back in the UK during the spring given his preference for a sound surface. I have stated on numerous occasions, Declan is the best in the business when it comes to the Irish pointing scene and we are very fortunate he is part of the One Jump Ahead team.
Third Time Lucki was rated 143 over hurdles having won three times last season. Placed at Grade 2 level and fourth in Grade 1 company at Aintree last spring, he looks set to reach a much loftier rating over fences if his chase debut is anything to go by. Withdrawn from an engagement at Wetherby last week (ground too quick), he jumped brilliantly in the two miles novice chase at Prestbury Park. A shade keen early on, he jumped so well he found himself in front at the seventh fence and the race was soon over as a contest as he sauntered clear. The winning margin of eight and a half lengths grossly flattered the runner-up. Dan Skelton indicated afterwards that the Arcadio gelding, who began his career in UK point-to-points for Francesca Nimmo and Charlie Poste, will return to Cheltenham for the Grade 2 novice (13th November) next month before a tilt at the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown (4th December). The six year old came up short over hurdles but I suspect he will be one of the best home trained novice chasers over two miles this winter. Whether he beat the best of the Irish is another matter.
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