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Irving puts in Supreme performance to land Dovecote

Irving came through his Cheltenham Festival prep-run with flying colours when easily landing the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton, and is now challenging Vautour for favouritism in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Paul Nicholls’ gelding put the final piece in the jigsaw of his already impressive profile for the race when effortlessly striding 5 lengths clear in the hands of Nick Scholfield to beat Amore Alato on testing ground which wasn’t ideal.

The win took his record over hurdles to four from four, and saw him cut into 3/1 with Coral for the Supreme having been available to back at 6/1 before the race. Vautour remains the firm’s 11/4 favourite.

The six-year-old’s handler was “thrilled” with the effort, and believes he will be even better in a stronger run race on good ground.

Speaking after the race, he said: “He’d like better ground and the faster they go, the better he’ll go. He can sharpen his jumping up a bit, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with him. He doesn’t need a lot of work, so we can now look forward to Cheltenham.”

A former smart flat performer in Germany, Irving has an excellent profile as far as his Cheltenham target is concerned.

Nine of the last 10 winners were aged five or six, and seven out of 10 had won a graded race. He meets both those criteria.

Thirteen of the last 14 winners of the Supreme had also had a run in the 52 days leading up to the contest, and Irving’s win in the Dovecote means that he now also has that important outing under his belt.