Rupert reaches Gold standard
Paul Webber was delighted to see his Cheltenham Gold Cup aspirant Time For Rupert get back into the winner's circle with a decisive success in the Betfair Graduation Chase at Newbury.
The seven-year-old chestnut ranked with the best staying novice chasers around last season, winning twice at Cheltenham before failing to sparkle when considered one of the bankers of the Festival in the RSA Chase.
His comeback second in the Charlie Hall Chase suggested the lung infection blamed for his Cheltenham demise was behind him, but he headed to Newbury with something to prove having run slightly disappointingly in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, albeit against top-notch stayers Kauto Star and Long Run.
Although taking a big drop in class for this four-runner affair, the 8-15 favourite still had to make sure he did a professional job and that is exactly what he produced.
Ridden by Denis O'Regan for the first time, the market leader jumped accurately at the head of affairs and shook off the more than capable The Giant Bolster with a degree of ease to score by a length and three-quarters.
Webber said: “We'll go for the Argento Chase and maybe look at the Irish Hennessy as an alternative. The way he jumps Denis thinks he could be a Grand National horse, but if he goes and wins the Argento and finishes third or fourth in the Gold Cup we'd have to be happy.”
Paddy Power make Time For Rupert a 33-1 chance for the Grand National and are unchanged at |20-1 for the Gold Cup.
O'Regan, who was taking over from Will Kennedy, said: “It was very straightforward for me. I didn't think he'd pick up that well in the ground. I was very happy.
“He's a horse with a lot of class, very genuine and jumps very well. When I turned him I looked around and he just picked up.”