Author: Dan Mason
Cheltenham Festival 2016
Published: 15:52 01/01/2015
Ptit Zig maintained an unbeaten record over fences following a classy victory in the Betbright Novices' 'Dipper' Chase at Cheltenham on Thursday afternoon, resulting in the Bay Gelding's ante-post odds for success shortening significantly for the JLT Novices' Chase at March's Cheltenham Festival.
Paul Nicholls' charge dipped into evens from 6/5 for Thursday's Dipper Chase over the Cheltenham hurdles before romping to a clear triumph after leading out of the last jump, nimble work avoiding the mount of Sam Twiston-Davies collecting erstwhile contender Little Jon, who tumbled at the sixth fence from home.
The confidence was soaring among the bookmakers following the fifth success in 10 runs for the six-year-old, Ptit Zig now shortened to second favourite behind Vautour at 6/1 with the likes of William Hill and Sky Bet, while Paddy Power trimmed the Gelding's price from 8/1 to 5/1.
Trainer Nicholls said afterwards that he believes there is better to come from Ptit Zig, commenting: "He wasn't quite at his best today and Sam said he raced lazily. He wasn't as fresh as he has been because this was his fourth run in a short time. I wouldn't normally have run him but I wanted to get some experience of Cheltenham into him. That's in the bank now. Sam said he hit a flat spot going into two out but then he winged the final fence and took off from the back of it."
The question still remains over Ptit Zig's stamina regarding this year's JLT Novices' Chase over two miles and four furlongs at the Cheltenham Festival on 12 March, although Thursday's win puts pressure on the Willie Mullins-trained Vautour (4/1 current favourite), the latter settling for joint second in its most recent run on Boxing Day at Leopardstown.
The Dipper Chase win was Twiston-Davies' 99th winner of the season, the jockey saying: "He jumped neatly and a little bit cautious at times, but as Paul said to me before we went out, we can get him better and when he comes to Cheltenham he can have a great chance."