Trifolium slams Arkle rivals
Bryan Cooper made the right call at Leopardstown as Trifolium won the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase.
Having recently been handed the main job for leading owners Gigginstown House Stud, Cooper would have had the option to ride Mozoltov for Willie Mullins in the same colours, but it was Charles Byrnes' 7/1 chance who got the nod and he delivered in fine style.
Well-backed market leader Defy Logic led at a frantic pace but his jumping fell apart in the second half of the race, with Trifolium taking over coming to three from home and keeping up the gallop to beat the staying-on Felix Yonger, with Mozoltov back in third.
The disappointing 11/8 favourite Defy Logic reportedly broke a blood vessel.
Byrnes said: "I knew he was in the form of his life coming here. I didn't really expect him to win, but I thought he'd be there or thereabouts.
"We put cheekpieces on him the last day and he was a bit free early on, so we took them off today and it helped him settle.
"His jumping was fantastic and if you look back at the formbook, he had pretty good form in heavy ground over hurdles.
"From day one over fences in Thurles, every day his jumping has been brilliant.
"He was able to settle in behind Defy Logic today and that was the secret.
"I felt he was back in the same form as he was going to Cheltenham two years ago (third in Supreme Novices' Hurdle).
"We had a terrible year with him last year and nothing went right, but all roads lead back to Cheltenham now."
Cooper, who was securing his first Grade One in Gigginstown's silks, said: "It was a hard decision (to elect to ride Trifolium), but the bottom line is that I went for experience.
"Mozoltov is a fair horse but he only had one other run over fences."
Of Trifolium, Cooper said: "He's beat them all out there, and is entitled to go for that (Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival) now."
Sky Bet make the winner 9/1 from 25/1 for the Racing Post Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, while Felix Yonger is 10/1 from 7s for the same event and Defy Logic has been pushed out to 16/1. Champagne Fever was trimmed a point to 5/1.
Spokesman Michael Shinners said: "You had to be impressed with Trifolium's performance there and he has turned around previous form with Felix Yonger in no uncertain style.
"A pecking order is beginning to emerge for the Irish runners in the Racing Post Arkle at Cheltenham and all eyes will be on Champagne Fever when he next runs in the Dr. P.J.Moriarty Novice Chase next month."