Black Hercules had gone into the race boasting an exemplary record over fences, having scooted up by 12 lengths from Sambremont over two-and-a-half miles at Navan in December. He had also put Definitely Red firmly in his place in the Listed Hampton Novices’ Hurdle (3m) in heavy ground at Warwick last month, and had shown his usual slickness over the fences until crumpling on landing after actually negotiating the final obstacle.
The Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned seven-year-old remains a general 4-1 chance for the National Hunt Chase and that race could be tailor-made as the steadier pace can only help a solid jumper like him further and there is no reason to be jumping ship on his claims for the festival.
Black Hercules has shown his best form with plenty of cut but the decision to head for the four-miler could alleviate any problems of there being too strong a pace that would be likely in a three-miler on faster ground, and his finishing burst could well see him outclass his rivals. He is unlikely to lengthen for the National Hunt Chase and 2pt wager is recommended.
There was some interesting fare at Warwick on Saturday where the Willie Mullins-trained Open Eagle was a ready winner of the two mile five furlong novices’ hurdle. I had my conkers on Mystical Knight when he hacked up in a bumper at that venue previously and there was plenty of lively support for the Rebecca Curtis-trained gelding on his hurdling debut against a streetwise rival. He was only beaten three and three-quarter lengths by Open Eagle but I see him much more as a three-mile novice hurdling prospect as he is a previous winner of two point-to-points in Ireland.
Mystical Knight should be followed closely and, when he hacks up in his next novice hurdle he could well earn his place in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the festival. Maybe a little sneaky bet for that race is worth it at this stage.
The Warwick card also threw some light on the Arkle Chase as Douvan’s prospects were enhanced without Willie Mullins’ charge even having to leave his horsebox. L’Ami Serge, second favourite for the two-mile novice event on the opening day of the festival, bombed out badly in the Kingmaker Chase and serious opposition to Douvan is becoming very hard to find. It looks as though only an accident can prevent Rich Ricci’s star winning the Arkle now.