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  • Supreme Potential on Show

Mitie Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m

  • (4yo+, 2m, Class 1, 6 runners)
  • Winner £17,085 2nd £6,411 3rd £3,210 4th £1,599 5th £804 6th £402
  • Going: Soft
  • Surface: Turf
Weighed In:
  • Winning time: 3m 56.58s
  • Off time: 14:00:36
Full result
Result 14:00 Ascot
Pos Horse Distance/th> Odds
1st 1 Irving 11/4
2nd 3 Volnay De Thaix 6 4/5f
  • Last Updated: December 19 2013, 20:49 GMT

Ian Ogg looks at Friday's Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle and a couple of Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle contenders in the field.

  • Irving is a 20/1 chance for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle
  • Volnay De Thaix has won both starts in Britain in facile fashion 
  • Splash Of Ginge ran his rivals ragged at Aintree 
  • Long Lunch steps up in grade after winning at Plumpton 

Make A Stand won the Mitie Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle en-route to winning the Champion Hurdle the following March and, while Martin Pipe's extraordinary hurdler may have been the exception to the rule, the race is always contested by some exciting prospects.

The talented-but-fragile Monsignor landed this prize in 1999 before stepping up in trip to win the then Royal & Sun Alliances' Novices' Hurdle, while 2008 winner Medermit came within a whisker of lowering the colours of Go Native at the Cheltenham Festival in the Supreme.

The 2013 renewal is no different with two of the six runners quoted prominently in the betting for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Irving is a 20/1 chance with the sponsors having won both of his starts over hurdles to date, including over course and distance. A five year old import from the Flat in Germany (whose dam was placed in the Oaks), he's certainly bred to be smart and he hasn't disappointed thus far with Axom syndicate manager Dan Downie delighted with the progress that he's made.

"We'll have to just see where everyone else is going and then decide. He's never run a bad race in his life. I thought five was a bit late to be going jumping but he's picked it up very quickly," Downie revealed.

"He's always worked well, as you would expect for such a good Flat horse, but you never know how they'll take to it. Bouggler was only rated 60-odd on the Flat and won a Grade Two for us."

The form of his Ascot win has already started to work out well with the four length second, A Hares Breath, running a big race to finish third behind the very well regarded Josses Hill at Newbury on Wednesday.

Josses Hill is trained by Nicky Henderson so that will give the Lambourn handler some idea of where he stands with Volnay De Thaix who is a 25/1 chance with Sky Bet for the opening contest of the Cheltenham Festival.

Henderson has won this race on three occasions, most recently with Molotof in 2011, and appears to have another live contender in the form of his four year old, who has won both starts since arriving from France in the manner of a smart individual.

Four year olds have won five of the last seven runnings so the omens are good for a horse that both Henderson and Barry Geraghty have described as 'a big baby'.

Back Volnay De Thaix at 25/1 to win the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle now!

It is far from being a two-horse race with Massini's Trap making the journey from Ireland. Trainer James Nash believes that he has a decent sort on his hands and has booked the services of Tony McCoy.

One of the most experienced runners in the line-up with seven hurdles starts to his name, he comes here on the back of a highly-respectable fourth behind leading Champion Hurdle hope Jezki.

Willie Mullins' dominance of the Irish scene has prompted Nash to bring Massini's Trap across to England.

"Willie has a very strong hand of four-year-olds and I was thinking of maybe seeing if there was a race for him in England and stepping him up to a Grade Two," said the Kildare based trainer.

"In saying that, there are a couple of smart ones in there, but this is a good way of starting off to see if he travels well. He has a bit of experience for a novice, he's basically a handicapper, and I think the ground will suit.

"I've known AP for years and when he's available, it's ideal," he added.

Massini's Trap may be the most experienced runner in the contest but the 'honour' of being the oldest goes to Prince Siegfried who has turned his attentions to hurdling rather late in the day at the age of seven.

Trained at the burgeoning powerhouse stable of John Ferguson, the Group Three winner suffered a surprise reverse at Fakenham on his first outing over obstacles but he set the record straight with a battling success at Huntingdon in a manner that suggested this more galloping track won't hold any fears.

Long Lunch is unbeaten in two starts this season, with trainer Charlie Longsdon commenting on his website that 'this is the sort of direction he has to head in nowadays'.

Related to several winners, including the relatively prolific and talented Hidden Keel, he came up short in two bumpers in the spring but justified market confidence in fine style on his seasonal reappearance at Market Rasen.

He was then switched to hurdling and, again, delivered the goods in taking fashion despite showing evident signs of inexperience. This represents a significant step up in class but his Oxfordshire handler has sent out runners to finish second and third in the last two renewals, suggesting that this son of Kayf Tara is expected to do far more than just hold his own.

The line-up is completed by Aintree winner Splash Of Ginge who fulfilled one of his owner's dreams when winning at the Merseyside track last time.

"This really is a dream come true. I've been involved with about seven syndicates before, but this is the first horse the family has owned outright and it's our first winner," said John Neild.

"I can't believe it, to be honest. I grew up literally half a mile down the road and we used to come and play football between the Grand National fences. I persuaded Nigel [Twiston-Davies] to bring the horse here. My dad's nickname used to be 'Ginge' and I had a dream once that we owned the Grand National winner called Splasher, so we combined the two."

That was the Oscar gelding's first career success in seven starts but the winning distance was 20 lengths while three runs back he finished just a length behind Creepy who has gone on to win a Grade Two contest at Cheltenham.

That form suggests that Splash Of Ginge certainly isn't here to make up the numbers and he's bred to be the part too with his dam an unraced half-sister to Cheltenham Gold Cup winner See More Business.

Given Twiston-Davies' predilection for running horses at his local track, it would be no surprise to see Splash Of Ginge running at Prestbury Park in March whether it be in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle or another contest.

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