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Irving's hot record sets expectation levels high

Tom Peacock

Connections of Irving believe there is even more to come from the unbeaten six-year-old ahead of today's curtain-raising Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Paul Nicholls' inmate goes into the race with a record of four wins from as many starts over jumps, culminating with an impressive victory in the Grade Two Dovecote Novices' Hurdle at Kempton last month.

Nick Scholfield has been in the plate each time and is bullish about the prospects of the ante-post favourite.

"It's very exciting to be riding the favourite in the Supreme. He's four out of four and you can't dismiss what he's done," said the jockey.

"He's done everything right and we'll have to see how he matches up against the Irish horses.

"I schooled him last week and everything went really well. The ground should be perfect for him."

Nicholls has been delighted with Irving and believes he is still on the march.

"He's done really well over hurdles this year and won four from four. He was very impressive in the Dovecote," the Ditcheat handler said. "He just needs to sharpen up his jumping a little bit, but that will come.

"I know he's won on soft, but he was staying on really well on good ground at Taunton and we think that suits him.

"He jumps, he travels and he's really exciting and we need to look after him. He must have an outstanding chance."

Dan Downie, racing manager for owners Axom, said: "He's had a really good preparation and we're looking forward to it.

"Paul was happy with his work on Saturday and he schooled well on the grass on Sunday, so we're ready to go."

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