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FANION D’ESTRUVAL had disappointed when sent off favourite in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase last season on the back of a hugely impressive debut for the Venetia Williams yard at Newbury. However, he proved that he remains a horse to be positive about with an encouraging second on his return at Cheltenham on Friday.
Fanion d’Estruval, making his first start for nearly 11 months, travelled notably strongly and led on the bridle briefly in the straight but he wasn’t fluent at the second-last, and then pecked on landing after the final fence when looking held.
The winner, Magic Saint, had the advantage of an excellent 5lb claimer in the saddle as well as, crucially, a run under his belt – and that race fitness may have proved decisive. Still, it was a performance to be positive about from Fanion d’Estruval, who, after only five starts over fences (he won both chases in France), remains open to improvement.
PROTEKTORAT had looked a chaser of considerable potential when scoring at Carlisle on his first start over fences last month and he built on that positive impression when bolting up at Cheltenham on Friday. He looked a novice out of the top drawer as he readily dismissed his three rivals in the 2-and-a-half-mile novice chase.
Protektorat was sent straight into the lead and he travelled with plenty of zest, impressing with his jumping that was much straighter than it had been at Carlisle (went left on that right-handed track). He responded strongly when shaken up, quickly scooting 17 lengths clear of his rivals, and while the race rather fell apart, a good time figure adds substance to the form. He is among the best novices we have seen so far this season and the Marsh Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival would appear an obvious target.
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Third Time Lucki
THIRD TIME LUCKI lost his unbeaten record over hurdles in the Grade 2 novice at Cheltenham on Sunday, but his reputation didn’t suffer any harm. Third Time Lucki was one of the leading bumper performers in Britain last season, faring best of the home team when fourth in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. He has since made a promising start over hurdles, winning his first couple of outings without having to show the true extent of his ability.
The feeling remains that we have yet to see everything Third Time Lucki has to offer as he shaped better than the result would suggest in second at Cheltenham, unable to sustain the big move he made after the second-last to close the significant gap on the winner. Third Time Lucki is one to consider for a valuable handicap, such as the Betfair Hurdle next February, on his way to the Festival.
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