Sempre Medici remains on course for Champion Hurdle

Sempre Medici justified short-priced favouritism to win the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday.

Sempre Medici remains on course for Champion Hurdle

Rory O’Moore and Sizing Tennessee cut out most of the running in the Grade Two over two miles, but Willie Mullins’ 2-7 market leader always had the measure of that duo.

Bentelimar gained an advantage approaching the second-last flight, at which point Sizing Tennessee fell, but Sempre Medici and Ruby Walsh had more quality, with seven lengths the winning distance.

Patrick Mullins, the winning trainer’s son and assistant, said: “It was a little harder than expected.

“The ground is very tacky and being a Flat horse it probably wouldn’t suit him.

“He showed a good attitude and I’d imagine he’ll be on the boat for the Champion Hurdle. He should improve for better ground. Hopefully he should pick up plenty of races after Cheltenham as well.

“We were wondering a bit going to the last - would he capsize? - but he battled well.”

Meanwhile Open Eagle maintained Mullins’ impressive strike rate at Warwick by comfortably landing the odds in the Caroline Bermingham & Claire Gibbs Birthday Novices’ Hurdle.

Mullins registered a double on this card 12 months ago and Ireland’s champion trainer was on target straight away with Open Eagle (4-7 favourite) to make it seven winners from his last 10 runners at the track.

Runner-up to stablemate Thomas Hobson on this course last month, the seven-year-old went one better with the minimum of fuss.

Kilcullen Flem led two out, but was reeled in by Open Eagle and Mystical Knight.

But Mullins’ inmate was always going the better and cruised into the lead before the final flight under a confident Paul Townend ride.

Though Open Eagle got in close to the obstacle it failed to stop his momentum and he passed the post three and three-quarter lengths to the good.

“It was straightforward enough. It’s what we hoped he’d do,” Townend said.

“He picked up nicely off the bend. He jumped well on the whole, fiddled the last. I didn’t want to do anything stupid at that stage. He came here and did it. We didn’t learn any more than we knew, but he was impressive, I thought.

“He was a stayer on the Flat and he stays over hurdles as well. He settled, which is a big help as well. He’s a nice horse.”

Open Eagle was slashed to 14-1 from 33-1 by Paddy Power for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Nicky Henderson is “not ruling anything out” for L’Ami Serge despite his surprise defeat at Warwick on Saturday.

The Seven Barrows trainer reported the six-year-old to be “very perky” on Sunday morning and was at a loss to explain his under-par display in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase.

Sent off 1-5 favourite to beat two rivals, he ran way below form and was beaten 11 lengths by Violet Dancer, which appears to have damaged his prospects for the Cheltenham Festival.

However, Henderson dismissed reports that L’Ami Serge would definitely miss the Racing Post Arkle Trophy, for which he was pushed out from 7-1 second favourite to as big as 16-1. He also holds an engagement in the JLT Novices’ Chase.

“He is 100 per cent this morning. He was perfectly all right when we scoped him at the races yesterday,” said Henderson.

“He’s sound as a pound this morning and we will have to try to find out what went wrong, because it did.

“He was never comfortable at any stage. Obviously it was pretty horrendous ground but he has run on soft ground before, he has run in heavy ground, and it’s not been a worry.

“He schooled on Thursday and he was electric. His work has been brilliant and he just didn’t turn up on Saturday. I do not know why. We will check him out tomorrow.

“The only thing I would emphasise is that we are not ruling the Arkle out, we are not ruling anything out. I certainly wouldn’t rule out the Arkle but if there was a forfeit for the JLT tomorrow we would leave him in that as well.”

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