3 minute read
Cheltenham Festival winner Iroko created a gigantic impression when running out a facile winner of the Stan Mellor Memorial Novices' Chase at Warwick this afternoon.
Bought by prominent owner JP McManus following two promising runs in France, the four-year-old enjoyed a fine campaign over hurdles last season, with the standout success coming when he recorded a comfortable victory in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero's charge went on to finish an excellent third in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree a month later and with some high-class form in the book, Iroko was sent off the 11/10 favourite to make a winning chase debut at Warwick.
The son of Cokoriko travelled powerfully off the leaders under Jonjo O'Neil Jnr for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest and as the pace began to lift, it soon became apparent he had bundles more to give. An excellent leap two from home saw him move upside Paul Nicholls' long-time leader Golden Son, who also jumped well on the whole, but Iroko had far too much class for his rivals and soon breezed past to take up the running in something of a common canter.
A brief shake of the reigns and a good jump at the last quickly sealed the deal, with Iroko barely having to come out of second gear to record an impressive three-and-a-half length winning chasing bow. Golden Son [100/30] stuck on well to fill the runner-up on his first outing for new connections, with Kilbeg King a further seventeen lengths away in third.
McCoy said: "He was good and sure-footed. It was a good place to start off as it takes a bit of jumping around here. It looked a decent enough novice chase as Paul Nicholls' horse [Golden Son] had some decent form so you would have to be impressed and like what you saw.
"He did win a Martin Pipe last season and you would be hoping he could develop into a smart chaser.
"It is all very well looking like a chaser but there are lots that look like chasers that don't make it, but he looked like a chaser the way that he jumped. Hopefully, he has a bright future with a bit of luck.
"It is a good test around here as the fences come up very quick around the back. He hasn't got loads of experience, as in racing experience, but hopefully, he will keep improving.
"He was a bit slow to come to hand. He is a fine big horse and I'd say he just improved with time. If you look at him, he is a fine big stamp of a horse.
"The first season we had him he just took time and to be fair one thing his owner [JP McManus] is very good at is being patient with them and it looks like it has paid off.
"He looks exciting, and he looks like he has enough pace to travel away and hopefully he has plenty of stamina too.
"You want horses to win nice novice chases like that and if you don't have dreams, you have nothing."
Joint-trainer Oliver Greenall believes Iroko has the potential to be 'something serious' and was equally impressed by the performance.
Greenall said: "He was pretty much foot perfect, bar a couple of small mistakes. He loved the ground and we thought he would like three miles more, but he has travelled like a dream there over two and a half miles. We will probably stick to two and a half for the time being.
"He just missed the ditch halfway down the back, but apart from that, Jonjo said he was brilliant.
"There is always a bit of pressure when you have a horse like him. He has been schooling so well at home and you hope he could be something serious."
Paddy Power were seemingly impressed, cutting the winner from 20/1 to 10/1 for more Cheltenham Festival glory next March in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase.
Greenall added: "At Aintree, he looked like he wanted a trip, but maybe he had a hard enough race at Cheltenham, and he just ran a bit flat at Aintree. Maybe that wasn't his true reading.
"Whether you go for a smaller race then go up a level or go straight up a level next we will just have to see.
"On a tighter track like Kempton on better ground, you could go three miles, but we will see how we go. The Kauto Star could be considered.
"If it is soft ground at Cheltenham, he would probably stay at two and a half miles and if it was quick he would go over three miles."