Noland scoops Sandown spoils

Arkle Trophy favourite Noland completed his preparation in satisfactory style at Sandown, with trainer Paul Nicholls reporting the gelding to be not fully tuned up for the occasion.

Arkle Trophy favourite Noland completed his preparation in satisfactory style at Sandown, with trainer Paul Nicholls reporting the gelding to be not fully tuned up for the occasion.

Despite beating the lower-rated My Petra by only a length and a half in the Durkan Group Novices’ Chase and making no impression on the Cheltenham market, connections pointed out several mitigating circumstances.

Noland, sent off at 1-4, was joined by My Petra and Psychomodo on the loop to the third-last and Ruby Walsh had to shake his mount up to regain the lead.

The advantage was made more handsome when Psychomodo took a heavy fall at the penultimate obstacle and Noland, who produced some exemplary leaps, was fully in command on the run-in.

“He has had a right blow after that and there is tonnes of improvement to come,” said Nicholls.

“He was hard to get right before his chasing debut at Folkestone and had a setback afterwards so that is just what we wanted – it was either come here or have a racecourse gallop.

“He wants a much faster pace, which he will get in the Arkle, and Ruby said he is the best jumper as a novice he has ever sat on.”

While most bookmakers kept his Arkle odds unchanged, Ladbrokes were bold enough to ease him from 3-1 to 4s.

Walsh added: “He travelled reasonably well and you can’t knock that – his jumping was impeccable.

“It was a difficult enough race and Noland is not a front-runner.

“I think I had the measure of Psychomodo when he fell and the way Noland jumps, you would like to be on the back of him in the Arkle.”

The victory was also a pleasant birthday present for Noland’s owner, John Hales.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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