Banbridge saw his Arkle odds halved following a dominant
victory at Cheltenham which leaves Joseph O’Brien’s options open when it comes
to Festival time, writes Paul Martin.
The six-year-old won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in March but will be over fences when he returns in 2023 having taken the step up to chasing in his stride.
He proved far too good for his rivals in Grade 2 company on Saturday, following up victory at Gowran Park on his chasing debut in October, and is now a 10/1 shot for the Arkle.
A similar price can be found for O’Brien’s prospect in the Turners’ Novices Chase and the trainer will take his time to consider his options following a supreme display of jumping.
“He's taken to chasing very well,” said O’Brien.
“He's already gone a step ahead from his hurdles campaign and there's a long way to go until the next step but you couldn't be more impressed with what he's done there. He's a hugely exciting horse going forwards.
“I think we learned today that two miles is another option going forwards – his jumping was what you wanted to see from a two-miler.”
A St Stephen’s Day outing at Limerick or Leopardstown is likely to be the next step for Banbridge, with the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse set to come ‘too soon’.
Banbridge’s victory was one of two for Irish-trained horses on day two of Cheltenham’s November meeting as Unanswered justified his favourite tag in a Class 3 Handicap Hurdle.
Tony Martin’s five-year-old went off at 2/1 and picked up over the last to pull clear of Wiseguy, with an eventual winning margin of six lengths making light of Unanswered’s big step up in trip and providing jockey Peter Carberry with a first Cheltenham
“He stays well, he’s never been beyond two [miles] but he’s stayed well in races prior to this,” Martin said.
“We’ll get him home, see how he is and take him from there. It’s early days yet.
“Cheltenham [Festival] is the Wembley, the FA Cup, it’s the place people want to go and love to go. You try and map them out for here, Punchestown, those sort of places.
“John Breslin [owner] has been with me a long time and those are the places he loves to be, so why not have a go? Fingers crossed we’re lucky enough.”
The day’s feature almost produced a first Irish-trained winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup for 13 years but Mouse Morris’ French Dynamite was edged out by Ga Law, who had Cork jockey Johnny Burke in the saddle.
"He still hasn't had that many runs over fences and I had to dig him into a few gaps, but he was tough," said Burke.
"He missed the last two fences but was going for it at the end. I'm delighted for the owners.
“They have had to be patient as he's had a lot of time off with injury. It's a special race and just riding here feels special."