Dovecote Winner Irving Set For Festival

Irving enhanced his reputation on Saturday ahead of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by claiming the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton.

It was the six-year old’s fourth triumph of the season and ensures he remains unbeaten in the UK going into the Cheltenham Festival next month.

Paul Nicholls had hoped to run his hurdler in the Betfair Hurdle earlier this month at Newbury. However, the ground on that occasion was against his runner and he chose to be patient for the right opportunity for his return.

Jockey Nick Schofield tracked the leaders on his mount at Kempton until the second obstacle from home where he took the lead for the first time in the race. Despite not jumping the final hurdle cleanly, he stretched away from his rivals, which was headed by Amore Alato as they crossed the line.

Bet365 chose to cut Irving into 5/2 clear favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in their racing betting following the impressive performance. He sits ahead of the Willie Mullins-trained Vautour who is next best at 11/4 with bet365, while Wicklow Brave is 8/1.

Nicholls’ runner has been talked about as one the country’s leading novices since he won on his British debut at Taunton on November 14. He then followed that up with a four length victory at Ascot just over a week later.

His first Group assignment also came at Ascot in the Mittie Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle. He went off as racing odds of 11/4 as Nicky Henderson’s Volnay De Thaix was in the field. Irving was able to finish clear of the 4/5 favourite which immediately made him a leading Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender, in what is the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival.

Nicholls has won the opener on day one twice, with Al Ferof in 2011 being his most recent success.

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