Peddlers sets out Arkle stall in fine style
PEDDLERS CROSS strengthened his position at the head of the betting for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham next March with a consummate display of fencing on his chasing debut at Bangor yesterday.
Partnered by Timmy Murphy for the first time, last season's Champion Hurdle runner-up easily dispatched his two rivals on his first start since disappointing in the Aintree Hurdle in April.
Sent off at odds of 1/8, the former Liscarroll point-to-point winner jumped with fluent efficiency en route to a facile four-and-a-half-length success.
In truth, the 170-rated hurdler did not have to be at his best to beat two rivals rated vastly inferior in the Golden Bear Beginners' Chase, but it was hard not to be impressed by a simply immaculate round of jumping.
Having taken a lead early on, Peddlers Cross was allowed to stride on by Murphy from halfway before cantering clear up the run-in.
The Donald McCain-trained gelding's odds for the Arkle were subsequently cut from 6/1 to 11/2 by Paddy Power, while he is as low as 4/1 with one firm for the two-mile novices' championship event.
"We're very much relieved," McCain admitted afterwards. "The only time he's done anything wrong it was my fault -- we shouldn't have gone to Aintree (at the end of last season).
"I was kicking myself afterwards and when you saw how hard he struggled after the last to the line at Cheltenham, I should never have even contemplated going. Thankfully, I've got an owner that forgives me.
"You expected him to make one small mistake going round, but I didn't see one. He's done everything we've asked him to do and done it really well.
"It's the first step down the road and he couldn't have been any more impressive. He could come back here in three weeks or we might step him up in class."
A delighted Murphy added: "I couldn't have asked for a better ride first time over fences. He's a quick horse and my only worry was he'd still be a bit 'hurdly' over his fences, but he wasn't. He watched and concentrated on everything he was doing. He's had the perfect start and the sky's the limit."
Jason Maguire, Peddlers Cross's regular rider, expects to be back in the saddle for the six-year-old's next outing.
The Grand National-winning jockey has been sidelined since injuring his back in a fall in August and is awaiting clearance from the British Horseracing Authority's chief medical officer Dr Michael Turner.
"Hopefully, it will be a week or so," Maguire said yesterday. "My own specialist has cleared me, I just need Dr Turner to pass me now."
McCain went on to complete a double as Cuban Piece benefited from a brilliant Tony McCoy ride in the Boodles Of Chester Juvenile Maiden Hurdle. The 7/2 chance was fitted with blinkers for the first time and proceeded to make all the running and beat Luggers Hall by seven lengths.
Meanwhile, Andover trainer Emma Lavelle stole the show at Exeter with a 97/2 treble, the first of her career.
Lavelle won both divisions of the Novices' Hurdle with Gullinbursti and Highland Lodge, while Easter Meteor won the Sun Inn Buckfastleigh Beginners' Chase. All three were ridden by stable jockey Jack Doyle.
The treble will help soften the blow to the yard of losing former stable star Crack Away Jack and having Court In Motion out through injury as the season gets into full swing.
Victor Dartnall can do little wrong at present and showed his talent when Connack (11/2) returned after an absence of 649 days.
Formerly with the now-retired Robert and Sally Alner, he beat a smart field in the Injured Jockeys' Fund Novices' Chase under Denis O'Regan.
•Last week's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta made a record $8.5m (€6.23m) for a horse in training when sold at Keeneland on Tuesday.