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Pied Piper clears last at Cheltenham on Saturday
By James Stevens and Lewis Porteous
Pied Piper laid down a serious marker for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March with a bloodless victory under an immobile Davy Russell.
Such was the impression of the winning performance, Paddy Power promoted Pied Piper ahead of stablemate Fil Dor to the top of the Triumph market, going 5-2 (from 9) on the winner and taking Fil Dor to 4-1 (of 3) .
Formerly owned by the Queen and trained on the flat by John and Thady Gosden, Pied Piper was the 11-8 favorite for the Grade 2 JCB Triumph trial and was simply in another league to his seven rivals, traveling smoothly for Russell before to win by nine. lengths of 50-1 shooting Moka De Vassy.
Watch Pied Piper destroy rivals in the Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle Trial
“He’s a great horse and we always thought he would improve from Punchestown,” Russell said. “He’s a beautiful horse and there are plenty of options. He’s smart.”
Triumph may seem the obvious target in March, but coach Gordon Elliott hasn’t ruled out the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for Pied Piper, who, like Fil Dor, races for Caldwell Construction Ltd.
“He’s a horse that does everything very easily around the house,” Elliott said. “He jumps really well and looks like a nice horse. Davy gave him a really good trick and let him down.
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Gordon Elliott: also has Fil Dor as lead contender for the Triumph
“He looks like a sleek horse with lots of speed and there’s a lot of directions we can go. They could both swing into the Triumph, but this boy also has the option of supreme novices and I wouldn’t. He’s a fast horse.
“There’s also Aintree and a lot of races to go. That’s not all for the Triumph, but it would be nice to win it all the same.
“At home and in all known forms I would say the other horse [Fil Dor] is a better horse, but that boy was impressive today.”
“It’s a little better than Fontwell”
Max McNeill likes to aim high with his talented string of horses and it worked wonders for North Lodge, who won a Year 2 prize at Cheltenham instead of heading to Fontwell.
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Max McNeill (left): ‘I would love to go to Ballymore’
The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle proved far more tempting than an £11,000 novice hurdle on the south coast on Sunday, and as the five-year-old cleared away in the closing stages, McNeill dreamed of an even more inclination ambitious.
“I would love to go to Ballymore, but I have to have a chat with Alan King first,” he said, as North Lodge were given a 16-1 overall chance.
“He’s a lovely horse. It was only his second race and he’s exciting. We bought him from Sean Doyle’s stable, who produced some great horses – The Worlds End being the showpiece – and we Love him since day 1. We own him with Niall Farrell and I’m very happy for him.
“When he won at Aintree we wanted to make it small. We had watched Fontwell on Sunday before Iain [Turner, McNeill’s racing manager] and Kingy said let’s give him an entry here. We looked at it and looked at it and thought, ‘go for it’. It’s a little better than Fontwell!”
Fergal O’Brien reached the century milestone for the season with Imperial Alcazar providing the breakthrough on the coach’s home track in the pursuit of the 2m4½f novice handicap.
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Imperial Alcazar: victory gives Fergal O’Bien his 100th winner of the season