The Bird has flown – Mullins youngster sets Supreme standard

Waiting Patiently provided one of the weekend’s most eye-catching performances.

Malcolm Jefferson’s exciting seven-year-old made it five from five over fences, and handed out a thrashing to several quality opponents. He also proved that he’s not simply a soft-ground bully, as he quickened clear of God’s Own, Josses Hill and Smad Place, on ground described as good to soft.

Speaking after the victory, Jefferson’s daughter, Ruth, said: “There’s not a lot of races about for him and we will have to look at the next step up. If the ground is good to soft or soft we will give it a go (Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase, February 17). Smad Place and God’s Own are getting on a little bit, but they do set a nice standard. He has done really well on soft ground and he has looked really well on soft/heavy ground. He has had to run on something a bit quicker today and prove he was as good. I like the way he quickened between the second-last and the last and galloped to the line.”

He’ll now be entered for both the Champion Chase and the Ryanair, and is as short as 10s for the latter. A decision on which option to take will surely depend on ground conditions at the time. Though connections may also be swayed by the name Altior appearing in the Champion Chase line-up.

Kempton’s opener went to Alan King’s smart juvenile hurdler Redicean. The result was never in doubt as he stormed to a 10-length success. His hurdling lacked fluency at times, but there’s no doubting he has a mighty engine. He’ll head for the Triumph Hurdle in March, and although this looks a strong division this season, he’s not without a chance at Cheltenham.

Whilst Nicky Henderson landed a treble at Kempton, it was his Warwick winner, Mr Whipped, who arguably left the most lasting impression. The Leamington Hurdle tends to go to a classy sort, and this fella looks capable of success at the highest level. He travelled powerfully throughout, and though idling after the last, ran out a comfortable winner. He’s now priced at 10/1 for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March.

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Nico de Boinville did the steering on Saturday, and was clearly pleased with the performance: “I was very impressed with him because he's still a big, raw baby. After he jumped the last he thought that was the job done and started to ease up a bit, but if something had come to me I think he would have gone on again. He had plenty left in the tank. His form is rock solid.”

Despite these numerous eye-catching performances, it was Getabird’s victory in Ireland that had the most dramatic effect on the Cheltenham Festival markets. Available at 16/1 on Friday for the Festival opener, Mullins’ young hurdler is now as short as 3/1 in places for the Supreme Novices’ in March.

Mullins has won the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle on numerous occasions, and has been especially successful with those sporting the silks of Susannah and Rich Ricci. Getabird was accurate over his hurdles throughout the contest, and scooted clear from the last for a convincing nine-length victory over the well-touted Mengli Khan.

Patrick Mullins was the lucky pilot, and clearly excited by the performance, when saying: “That was great. He was quite worked up in the parade ring, which isn't like him, and he jumped off as if he was going to run (away with me). But after he jumped the first he kind of backed off a bit and I was actually going a bit slower than I wanted. I wanted to make it a good test as he's a point-to-point winner and Mengli Khan is a Flat horse.

“I was a bit worried when we turned out of the back that we hadn't gone fast enough, but the gears he's shown from the back of the second-last, he didn't have those when I rode him as a bumper horse. That performance was better than I was expecting to be honest. He jumped fantastic - he was rapid - and I'd say he has lots of options now.”

Willie Mullins will be hoping the winner can replicate Douvan and Vautour in following success in the Moscow Flyer with victory in the Supreme. He said of the win: “Patrick getting down to 11st 2lb paid off! He jumped fantastic and way better than on his first run. I was a bit worried whether he would be able to jump at the speed they would be going here. He jumped out, made his own running, and jumped very well. I'm very happy to have won that race with him.

“I don't know what route we're going to go, but you'd have to think as a Supreme Novices' trial that he'd be good enough for that, but he'll certainly be entered for the other races like the Ballymore. Jumping the way he did, that brings the Supreme into the picture. After his first run I was a little bit worried, but certainly the way he was there he'd be well able to jump with any novice. The speed he showed was very good. He got a nice bunch of horses off the bridle. I don't know yet if he'll go straight to Cheltenham. We'll see how he comes out of it.”

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