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Dunguib to get ten days rest before focus turns to Supreme

A manic weekend of action, trials and answers ahead of the Cheltenham Festival is now done and dusted. As the dust settles we reflect on what we found out over the weekend, with the most important thing being all the big winners are reported in the best of health after their exertions.

The Hennessy was Sunday's feature but it has to be with Dunguib that we start. Philip Fenton yesterday described the incredible seven-year-old to be in fine fettle and showing no ill-effects from his annihilation of the Deloitte Novice Hurdle field who he just brushed passed with incredible ease.

Dunguib is now odds on across the board to win the Supreme Novices Hurdle with all the evens available on Sunday evening now well and truly gone, and his trainer now intends giving Dunguib a break ahead of the Festival.

"He's absolutely fine. He ate most of his food last night and he's been in the field all morning, there's not a bother on him. He won't have a saddle on his back for 10 days now, he'll get a complete break. I believe we are due more frost so he might not have been doing much anyway," Fenton revealed yesterday.

Brian O'Connell rode the horse with a high level of confidence which has flourished during their regular partnership, and his confidence was evident when he restrained from hitting the front until after the last and never so much had to show Dunguib his stick, never mind give him a flick of it.

Last year's Champion Bumper winner has to improve on his jumping however. It wasn't good on Sunday and at times it was very sloppy. But a horse with such an engine will get away with such mistakes -- even around Cheltenham -- but only as a novice.

Talk of a Champion Hurdle tilt for Dunguib next month seems to be eventually witling away, and while it would be one of the most intriguing things to ever happen around the Cotswolds, participation in that race appears all but certainly 12-months away.

Dunguib is so far ahead of his novices rivals it is laughable, and if he was to improve and become a real slick jumper in time for the Cheltenham Festival, he will undoubtedly be one of the most impressive sights ever over jumps.

Regardless, I doubt his jumping will let him down like it did at the weekend and he could well be one of the biggest Irish bankers of all time.

Fenton is keen his jumping will improve and even thinks the Supreme Novices Hurdle will bring improvement. He said: "He might have hit nearly every hurdle yesterday but he's absolutely fine which is the main thing, there's not a scratch on him and he's sound as a pound. The fastest he was going in the race, the final hurdle, was the best he jumped so we'll just have to hope the fast pace at Cheltenham will improve his jumping."

The weekend began with news that Tony McCoy would ride 2008 Gold Cup winner Denman in the Aon Chase at Newbury this weekend as he gets to know the horse ahead of the Gold Cup next month.

Ruby Walsh admitted yesterday that he will miss not riding Denman on Saturday, and that he may or may not have made the right decision with regards to opting for Kauto Star.

"I've had to make a decision," Walsh said. "And after winning two Gold Cups and four King George's on Kauto Star it's very hard to dessert him.

"That said, it's only my choice and I've got it wrong in the past so I wouldn't be overly confident I've got it right this time either. They are two exceptional horses and there's only a good jump between them."

Walsh had to settle for second place aboard last season's RSA Chase winner Cooldine when he just got touched off by Joncol in the Hennessy. It was a timely return to form by Cooldine, but for Joncol it was proof that he is up to that sort of standard.

Yesterday, his trainer Paul Nolan -- who didn't give Joncol a Gold Cup entry this year -- is hoping that the massive seven-year-old will make it up to Gold Cup class next season.

"He won a point to point as a four-year-old, his bumper as a five-year-old and went straight over fences. He's relatively inexperienced and his professionalism is improving every day," admitted the Wexford trainer.

"Hopefully he'll improve well enough to be a contender for next year's Gold Cup -- if he improves enough. He put the stamina issue to bed on Sunday and he even jumped out to the right at the last."

For now, connections mull over an assault on the Ryanair Chase or possibly even take a chance that the gods provide suitable ground for the Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown, but, regardless, he is still certainly a young horse with a big future.

Nolan concluded: "He's 100pc this morning, there's not a blemish on him. It would be very hard to have him peaking for the Ryanair. We've run well every race this season, we might need to freshen him up now and give it a miss and wait for Punchestown if the ground was safe enough."

On the novice trail is Captain Cee Bee who was in action on Saturday at Naas as he put in a fitting display to leave him spot on for a clash with Sizing Europe in the Arkle next month.

A faller at the last when about to get into a battle with the latter, Captain Cee Bee bounced back to winning ways in the Opera Hat Chase to set up a return to the scene of his 2008 Supreme Novices Hurdle win.

Speaking yesterday, trainer Eddie Harty said; "He's fine, he's having a couple of easy days now. He came out of the race fine, everything has gone exactly how we would have wanted -- apart from a little mistake at the last.

"It was ideal for him. He's jumped a clean round as you wouldn't want him going to a race like the Arkle on the back of a fall."

Captain Cee Bee and Sizing Europe continue to dispute favouritism for the 2m novice chase at the Festival, and with it only being five weeks away today, things are beginning to hot up.