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Volnay De Thaix ready to rock in Relkeel Hurdle

The exciting Volnay De Thaix can get the better of veteran Rock On Ruby to land the Grade 1 Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham today (3.45).

The Nicky Henderson trained gelding was a very smart novice last season when winning three of his five races and running well behind the likes of Irving.

The five-year-old looked far from the finished article and the type who would improve significantly once he had strengthened up.

That view was confirmed when a much stronger looking Volnay De Thaix reappeared at Huntingdon and made a mockery of his handicap mark of 144 to win impressively by four lengths.

The son of Secret Singer travelled strongly throughout, and after leading on the bit two out cruised clear to beat a useful yardstick in Conquisto with any amount in hand.

It was a performance which suggested Volnay De Thaix had a massive future ahead of him, and he was far from disgraced last time out at Haydock when fourth of 16 to Aubusson on very testing ground under a welter burden of 12st.

Volnay De Thaix travelled well for much of the 3m contest until getting outpaced two from home, but then stuck to the task well to be beaten just over eight lengths in what is traditionally a very strong race.

In the circumstances it was a very solid effort, and off a current rating of 158 Volnay De Thaix is now rated just 2lb inferior to Rock On Ruby.

With the prospect of plenty more to come after just seven starts over hurdles, and the drop back in trip expected to suit, I fancy him strongly to take the step up in class in his stride and get back to winning ways.

Rock On Ruby, who won the Champion Hurdle in 2012, has been a great servant to connections but hasn’t won over hurdles since scoring at Doncaster in February 2013.

However the son of Oscar ran well on his final start last season when beaten just a head by The New One in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle and was far from disgraced on seasonal reappearance when third to Purple Bay in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Rock On Ruby is entitled to come on for the latter, but would not want the ground becoming too soft.

At the age of nine he is not going to improve on what he has achieved so far, and the much younger and up and coming Volnay De Thaix could have too many gears for him to cope with.