Jumping errors don't faze classy Dunguib
The immensely talented Dunguib cemented his position as an Irish banker for the Cancer Research Supreme Novices Hurdle despite taking repeated liberties at the obstacles throughout the Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
A best-priced even money chance now with Labrokes for the Festival opener at Cheltenham, Philip Fenton's charge will have to tidy up his jumping but there's no doubt he has all the gears. Undefeated over timber though not the most natural of jumpers, Dunguib's constant partner Brian O'Connell was instructed by Fenton to get the horse to relax and he settled the hot favourite out the back.
Still behind when clipping the second last, the Presenting gelding sailed past beaten horses to follow runner-up Fionnegas over the last and win without coming off the bridle.
"Jumping like that wouldn't do at Cheltenham, but he looks the one for the Supreme Novices and there's no doubt after today we're going for that rather than the Champion Hurdle this year," Fenton remarked.
"While this was his worst jumping display, he schooled fine over nine flights earlier this week and at least we have a couple of weeks to work on that aspect although he will have an easy time for the next fortnight.
"I thought down the back and again two out we were in trouble. Fortunately, this horse has a great cruising speed and Brian has an old head on young shoulders, so it's just as well he had an easy enough race."
Better ground in the Cotswolds would be more suitable for Dunguib than yesterday's testing terrain on the evidence of last year's runaway victory there in the Champion Bumper.
A sounder surface would also benefit Weapon's Amnesty which paid the penalty for a couple of sketchy jumps when failing to overhaul front-running Citizen Vic in the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase. Dropping back three furlongs from the Knight Frank Novice Chase in which he was short-headed by Pandorama after Christmas, Davy Russell was fighting a losing battle from the second last even if his task was simplified when Zaarito took another heavy fall upsides at the last.
At that stage, Citizen Vic, upped in distance on Ruby Walsh's advice, was still full of running and Paul Townend -- who got his mount into a splendid rhythm -- wasn't for passing as they kept Weapon's Amnesty at bay. The principals could meet again in the RSA Chase, though Willie Mullins may wait for the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
The Weapon's Amnesty team of Charles Byrnes and Davy Russell had better luck earlier when Pittoni comfortably made it a hat-trick over jumps in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle to book a crack at the Triumph Hurdle.
Byrnes is heading to the Cotswolds with a powerful team which includes leading Champion Hurdle hope Solwhit, and Pittoni was trimmed to 12/1 for the Triumph by Coral.
Davy Russell sent the 4/6 favourite about his business and his partner pinged the final flight to take his unbeaten run over timber to three. Byrnes said: "He did it well and will jump better with a faster pace."