Arvika Ligeonniere has secured his second consecutive Grade One prize with another fine front-running display in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Despite spending over two years on the sidelines with injury, the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old has seemingly returned better than ever, enjoying a fantastic start to his career over fences.
He made a winning start over the larger obstacles at Punchestown in May and produced a stunning performance when making every yard of the running in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on his return to action earlier this month.
Coming back in trip to an extended two miles, Arvika Ligeonniere was a 9-10 favourite for what looked a stiffest task to date over fences, facing proven top-notch performer Oscars Well.
With Paul Townend deputising in the saddle for the otherwise-engaged Ruby Walsh, the Mullins runner adopted the front-running tactics that were so successful on his last start, albeit this time not pulling quite so far clear.
He began to wind up the tempo moving down the back straight, but a mistake at the third last gave his closest pursuers Baily Green and Oscars Well a chance.
However, Arvika Ligeonniere was much better at the second last and although he appeared to be tiring after the final obstacle, he had enough in reserve to hold off Oscars Well by two and a half lengths.
Mullins said: “He got a bit tired but the ground is heavy. He settled well over the first and had a great jump. He jumped the second and third well and then piled on the pace.
“He missed the third last as Paul wanted an easy one and the horse kept going. Because he’s so free Paul is not inclined to pull him back and fiddle one.
“Paul said he was idling turning for home – I was wondering whether was he getting tired. He’s a big, strong horse and we’ll look forward to the Arkle back here in February.”
Stan James cut Arvika Ligeonniere to 6-1 from 7-1 for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March, while he is 7-1 from 10-1 for the longer Jewson Novices’ Chase.
It was another excellent day at the office for the champion trainer, with his Blood Cotil claiming the major supporting race, the Q8 OILS Juvenile Hurdle.
The youngster was a 4-9 market-leader following the withdrawal of paper favourite Our Conor and he got the job done in fine style, beating Stocktons Wing by three lengths.
Mullins said: “He’s a nice sort. We know he stays so the ground wasn’t going to be a problem. We were just worried if he’d settle, but he settled beautifully today.
“Hopefully he is at the top end of three year olds in Ireland and he will probably have just one more run before March and that might be in the Grade One here. We’re looking forward to him.”
Blood Cotil is 14-1 from 16-1 for the Triumph Hurdle with Stan James.
Noel Meade’s Ned Buntline (4-5 favourite) bounced back from his odds-on reverse at Fairyhouse with a stylish display in the Bookmakers Bar At Bewleys Hotel Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle.
Meade said: “That is a bit of a weight off my back. We think he is a good horse and hopefully he is. He will go for a novice hurdle somewhere now and it’s nice to get a win on the board.”
Last month’s Cheltenham bumper winner Anonis (11-4) made a pleasing start to his career over obstacles in the Q8 OILS Maiden Hurdle.
Winning trainer Margaret Mullins said: “I am delighted. He was green, as I thought he would be. He schooled well since Cheltenham. He is a nice horse. He is good and tough. He will have another couple of runs over hurdles before we decide where he will go.”
The Colm Murphy-trained Shariyan justified 4-1 favouritism for the Download The Free Racing Post Mobile App. Handicap Hurdle under Robbie Power.
Murphy said: “I’m absolutely delighted as he’s been so frustrating. I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t have won but it was a competitive handicap so you can’t be too confident.”
Katie Walsh guided 7-1 shot Jacksonslady to victory in the Racing Post All You Need For Irish Racing Handicap Chase, while the concluding bumper went to 10-1 chance Moyle Park.