Not everyone who saw the Willie Mullins-trained Ut De Sivola maintain his 100% record over hurdles at Punchestown recently was impressed with the way the ex-French racer scored and there is certainly room for improvement for the youngster who remains a relatively inexperienced horse but is prominent in the ante-post market for one of the feature races at the Cheltenham festival, writes Elliot Slater.
Unlike many horses likely to take their chance in the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle on March 16, Ut De Sivola had very limited experience in France finishing second in a three-runner bumper contest in May so is still very much on a learning curve, a fact that became obvious from his performance in the Grade 3 VisitPunchestown.com Juvenile Hurdle, a contest for which he was sent off the red-hot 1/4 favourite on the strength of his convincing winning debut over timber for Mullins at Clonmel some five weeks earlier. Those searching for Cheltenham free bets will have been keeping a close eye on things.
On that occasion the gelded son of Robin Des Champs travelled strongly throughout and generally jumped well for a newcomer in handing out a seven-length beating to Bat Masterson, but at Punchestown he was made to work very hard by the Dermot Weld-trained maiden Hisaabaat who headed him two from home and was still upsides when blundering at the last, effectively handing the race on a plate to the grateful winner.
Time might prove that the runner-up is on the upgrade, but Mullins was quick to suggest that he will give Ut De Sivola at least one more outing before heading to Cheltenham and nominated a juvenile hurdle on Irish Hennessey day as the most likely next port of call. Bookmakers left the four-year-old unchanged at a best price of 12/1 for the two-mile Cheltenham cavalry charge.