Nolan seeking winning opportunity for Latest Exhibition

Paul Nolan will do everything in his power to find an opportunity for Latest Exhibition to get back on the winning trail after again finding Monkfish too strong at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Just a neck separated the Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish and Nolan’s stable star when the pair finished first and second respectively in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last March.

However, Monkfish was an authoritative winner when they met in a Grade One novice chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas period – and was even more dominant when blowing his rivals away in last weekend’s Flogas Novice Chase.

Nolan said: “In fairness, we were well and truly beaten. I don’t think it’s my fellow regressing, I just think Monkfish is a year younger and still improving.

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“Maybe my fellow didn’t quite run up to total scratch, but I don’t have any excuses really.

“At the end of the day, my horse was a good second and had some good horses behind him.”

Nolan now faces the difficult choice of allowing Latest Exhibition to meet Monkfish again in next month’s Festival Novices’ Chase, or potentially drop back in distance to take on the similarly exciting and unbeaten Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

He does have a third Festival option in the form of the three-mile-six-furlong National Hunt Chase, while Nolan is not ruling out the possibility of his charge missing Cheltenham altogether in favour of an easier option on home soil.

“Monkfish just looks to be an exceptional animal. I didn’t think we’d seen a horse to match Envoi Allen in the last number of years, but he possibly proved that he could,” Nolan continued.

“It’s unfortunate for me that it’s difficult to avoid them. If I go back in trip in Cheltenham I take on Envoi Allen, or I stay where I am and take on Monkfish again. We’ve never met Envoi Allen, whereas we’ve met Monkfish three times and he’s beaten us three times.

“We’ll have to make decisions about Cheltenham, whether we stay at home and go for the Ryanair Gold Cup or the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse instead.

“People always say you shouldn’t be afraid of one horse, but you’re dealing with horses that don’t seem to make mistakes and there don’t seem to be any flaws in them.”

Paul Nolan (right) wants to get Latest Exhibition back on the winning trail
Paul Nolan (right) wants to get Latest Exhibition back on the winning trail (David Davies/PA)

He added: “I don’t mind listening to different opinions, but you have to be realistic and I don’t want to finish second again – I would prefer to win a winners-of-one race somewhere than be second in a Grade One.

“For the horse’s sake as well, he’s getting very hard races and finishing second. It’s always a relief to run respectably and run well, but seconds are no good to me – I want winners.

“We’re going to have a chat with the owners and weigh up our options.

“If you’d told me at the start of the season that after four races we’d have won one and finished second three times I’d have been disappointed, so I’m going to do my best to rectify that and run the horse in the race I think he has the best chance of winning.”

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