Latest Exhibition relished the step up in trip to win the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors “50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff” Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Always highly thought of by trainer Paul Nolan, the seven-year-old had run against some of the top novices this season and Nolan always suggested he would come into his own when faced with a proper stamina test.
Racing over two and three-quarter miles for the first time, he was the first of the fancied runners to come off the bridle turning into the straight, but he kept on responding to Bryan Cooper’s urgings.
When Cooper asked him for a big leap at the last, his mount responded in fine fashion and the 7-2 chance powered away from the front-running Cobbler’s Way to win by two lengths, with Longhouse Poet third.
Nolan was winning his first Grade One since Defy Logic took the Irish Arkle in 2013, while it was also a welcome return to the big stage for Cooper, who has endured a string of injuries in recent seasons.
Latest Exhibition is now 7-1 from 12-1 for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham with Betfair.
Cooper said: “We went a good gallop from halfway and he stayed well. I was a bit worried turning in, but he kept on really well after the last.
“The further he goes, the better he is. He’ll definitely go three miles and that will be more of a help to him at Cheltenham. He jumped very well and everything went to plan.
“He probably wouldn’t mind a bit more ease in the ground, but he handled it well. It’s genuine yielding ground.
“Hurdles have really brought him alive and I’d say fences will suit him even better.
“It’s great to ride this winner for Paul as he’s stuck by me when things have been very quiet over the past few years.”
Nolan was similarly thrilled, adding: “I’m delighted for Bryan, he’s a Grade One big-day jockey.
“I’m delighted for the lads at home, my brother James and for the owners – it was brilliant that they were able to hold on to him. But for them, he wouldn’t be with me. I take my hat off to them and they are why we are here today.
“It was probably the worst pressure day yet. You were hoping the form of the last day had worked out.
“When you step up to Grade One company, you just don’t know what will happen with horses, whether during the season will they continue to improve or will they regress for no reason and just won’t perform – then your season is over.
“This guy, in fairness to him, he races behind the bridle a little bit, but he digs down deep. He did it there today on ground that’s the quickest he’s ran on.
“He’s not going to kick away and win 10 lengths. He won his bumper easily enough, but he always has to work that little bit, regardless of the trip.
“He proved against Abacadabras that he needed to step up from two miles at least. He’s proven he can go on any ground, he’s not slow by any means, he has a good cruising gear.”
When asked about the possibility of an outing in the Albert Bartlett, Nolan said: “We’ll talk about that.
“I’d say yes, but we’ll leave our options open and we’ll run the horse in the best race for him.
“We’ll talk with Bryan – he’s the one that’s going to be riding him, so he’ll know more than us.”