All roads lead to Cheltenham for Fox Appeal.
The six-year-old son of Brian Boru bounded to glory in the Grade 2 Betfred Novices’ Chase at Ascot yesterday.
Four rivals opposed the 5/4 favourite – but none could get him off the bridle as he cruised to an impressive 10-length success.
It was a maiden triumph over fences for the Emma Lavelle-trained talent, who was second to Black Thunder on his chasing debut at Fontwell back in October.
And such was the impression it made on jockey Aidan Coleman, connections are now weighing up a return to the Cheltenham Festival.
The Arkle, Jewson and RSA Chase have all been mentioned as potential targets for the young chaser, who was ninth in the three-mile Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park last year.
Trainer Lavelle refused to single one of the races out.
But Coleman is confident the Ascot victory – over two miles, three furlongs – proves Fox Appeal has the pace to contest the two-mile Arkle.
‘That’s probably his ideal trip,’ said Lavelle, who trains in Hatherden, near Andover.
‘Aidan got off and said you have got to think of him as an Arkle horse.
‘Aidan’s view is dropping him down to the Arkle trip is a better option than moving him up for the Jewson.
‘That was a stiff two miles but he was really impressive and that’s very exciting for everyone.
‘He will probably have one more run before Cheltenham and he’s not ground dependent, so that’s easy.’
Fox Appeal is a 25/1 shot in the ante post market for the Arkle, while he is 16/1 and 20/1 for the Jewson and RSA Chase respectively.
Rated 149 over hurdles, Fox Appeal claimed his first triumph under rules at Fontwell in 2011.
He breezed to an eight-length success in a maiden hurdle at the West Sussex venue – landing odds of 20/1.
After chalking up three more wins over the smaller obstacles, he finished third behind heroic stayer Big Buck’s in the 2012 Long Distance Hurdle.
Lavelle was always keen to see him over fences and after his debut second, Fox Appeal was runner-up to Wonderful Charm in the Grade 2 Congratulations AP McCoy Rising Stars Novices’ Chase.
But having got off the mark in such style yesterday, Lavelle & Co are now understandably aiming for the top.
Harry’s Farewell, who won a bumper at Fontwell in March, was a non-runner in the Iron Stand Maiden Hurdle at Ascot.
Meanwhile, the West Sussex course have had 106 entries for their annual Boxing Day meeting.
The action kicks off with the Jake Eastham, Dual Keddie Trophy Winner Juvenile Hurdle at 12.20pm.
And the seven-race card climaxes with the Happy Christmas Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (3.50pm).
Gates open at 10.30am. For ticket information, call 01243 543335 or visit fontwellpark.co.uk