JLT: Mullins and Walsh off the mark as Yorkhill strikes

Yorkhill gets Mullins
and Walsh off the mark By James Burn 1:36PM 16 MAR 2017

Report: Cheltenham Festival, Thursday

JLT Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f, 5yo+

THE winner Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh – so often the dominant pair at the Cheltenham Festival – craved at this year's meeting arrived when the enigmatic Yorkhill landed Thursday's JLT Novices' Chase.

Jump racing's most important week had been a frustrating one for the top duo, especially with Douvan flopping at odds-on in Wednesday's Champion Chase.

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However, in Yorkhill they had another favourite to go to war with and he did not disappoint, repelling Top Notch on the run-in with Disko third.

Successful in last year's Neptune, Yorkhill had not convinced everyone since switching to fences this term, but he barely put a foot wrong and was nimble when sidestepping the falls of Baily Cloud and Balko Des Flos.

Held up by Walsh, the son of Presenting travelled well and led after the second-last, but seemed to give the chasing pack a whiff of victory when idling, before holding on to score at 6-4.

"He's a racehorse this fella," said Walsh, recording his 53rd festival winner. "He's got Gold Cup horse written all over him. He's got a huge engine but he's got a kink. People don't realise how good a job Paul Nicholls did with Denman, he was exactly the same as this horse. He's got a massive engine and that's brilliant to win. Things can't go your way all of the time. You have to keep looking forward."

Owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie, Yorkhill is 14-1 with Paddy Power for next year's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and 11-4 with the same firm for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

"He was good and I'm hoping he idled in front," added Mullins, now just one winner short of recording a half-century at the festival.

"I thought he might go away, but for a moment it looked like he was coming back to them, but he held on. He's not the easiest of rides and Ruby had to sit and suffer and hope he got the gap. We're on the board and it's a big relief."

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