Avrika moves out of comfort zone with win

Niall Cronin

THREE-TIME Grade One-winning novice chaser Arvika Ligeonniere added a competitive Grade Two Clonmel Oil Chase to his ever-growing CV as he ran out a convincing victor on his first assignment outside of novice company yesterday afternoon.

Willie Mullins' eight-year-old was partnered to victory at the Tipperary track by Ruby Walsh, who survived a blunder at the last with a circuit to go to justify favouritism and reward those who were on at odds of 4/5.

Facing opposition from the likes of more seasoned campaigners such as Rubi Light and even Toner D'Oudairies, who accounted for Grade One winners at Punchestown earlier in the season, it wasn't the most straightforward of tasks for a horse departing novice racing for the first time but it was a test that Arvika Ligeonniere passed in good style. Winning rider Ruby Walsh said afterwards: "He hadn't really been impressing us at home. His weight was spot on and he had a lot of work done but he just hadn't been really exciting us so we were a bit dubious beforehand."

He added: "Trying to get two and a half miles with him on his first run, you are always trying to keep him relaxed so you are probably not letting him jump as well as he can.

"But when I needed one at the second last, he put the race to bed."

Walsh was happy to leave future engagements for Arvika Ligeonniere to trainer Mullins: "I think there is improvement in him. It's probably a bit 'where do you go?' with him. The good two-mile chases in Ireland next are left-handed – which he is not as good at – so Willie can scratch his head about that one!"

Mullins said afterwards: "Today was the first indication that he'll get more than two and a half miles and the first time he settled.

"I was finding it hard to place him as he prefers going right-handed but I wouldn't mind entering him to go left."

The champion trainer's abundance of talent will leave him with a difficult task in keeping them apart at this stage of the year, and he concluded: "The plan is to go to the John Durkan with Sir Des Champs so that's not the preferred option for Arvika Ligeonniere. He may travel."