Notebook maintained his unbeaten record over fences with a determined success over Cash Back in the ERSG Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge had lowered the colours of Fakir D’Oudairies over Christmas when he announced himself as a novice of the highest order and a rematch was on the cards.
However, Joseph O’Brien felt the ground was too quick for Fakir D’Oudairies and decided to skip the race, with Notebook, who was very keen on his way to the start, sent off the 5-4 favourite.
Notebook usually races prominently and Rachael Blackmore was content to let Cash Back make the running, but it soon became apparent only the market leader was going well enough to pose a threat to the pacesetter.
As Blackmore’s mount jumped into the lead, the question was whether his exertions to post had left a mark, but he stuck on well to win by three-quarters of a length.
Blackmore said: “He’s such a pleasure to ride. He attacks his fences, but he’s well able to shorten as well. He’s class.
“It felt like I was in front too soon, but he was ahead at the right place anyway.”
De Bromhead is now looking forward to contesting the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March.
He said: “He had to tough it out and he jumped brilliant. Cash Back gave us some race there.
“I didn’t think he jumped to his right as much as at Christmas, he was very good today.
“A few of ours have improved a lot over fences through the years – (2017 Champion Chase winner) Special Tiara was a 116-rated hurdler.
“Some of them need a fence and you saw his jumping out there, he’s a dream and he just seems to love it. Also I was running him over the wrong trip for most of last year!
“He’ll go straight to the Arkle and fingers crossed we get a clear run.
“He seems to have won on everything, but he’s probably marginally better on better ground.
“It was a super ride from Rachael and some race, lucky we came out on top.
“We’ve five weeks now, so we’ll freshen him up and try and have him as right as we can.”