Arkle is now top target for Ellison at Festival

'SIT last and come late.' Trainer Brian Ellison's instructions to Aidan Coleman could not have been more succinct '“ or precise '“ before he gave the rider the leg up on novice chaser Forest Bihan.

Race winner Forest Bihan (left) ridden by jockey Aidan Coleman in The Sky Bet Lightning Novices' Steeple Chase during Sky Bet Chase day at Doncaster Racecourse.

They were followed to the letter, the exciting six-year-old 
surging past his rivals in the shadow of the winning post to land the prestigious Grade Two Sky Bet Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.

Indeed the winning margin would have been even more emphatic if the horse, who runs in the colours of South Yorkshire owner Phil Martin, had not erred at the third last when Coleman was fortunate to stay in the saddle.

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A one-two for Malton with Malcolm Jefferson’s highly-regarded Cloudy Dream finishing runner-up, the form is rock solid as connections consider letting the horse take his place in the Grade One Arkle Trophy, the Cheltenham Festival’s two-mile championship race for novice steeplechasers.

Forest Bihan’s only defeat came at Newcastle last month at the hands of Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently, who claimed a Grade Two chase at Haydock earlier this month in emphatic style.

Ellison confirmed to The Yorkshire Post yesterday that the Arkle remains the top target, even though Altior and Min look, on paper, to be exceptional novice chasers.

“We’ve all to get there,” said the trainer, who is likely to give Forest Bihan alternative engagements at the National Hunt Festival.

“I’m over the moon with him,” said Ellison. “Aidan said the mistake was his fault – he said he asked the horse for a big one when he should have left him alone.

“If it wasn’t for that, the horse wouldn’t have come off the bridle.”

Bred in France, Ellison believes it took time for Forest Bihan to acclimatise to conditions here.

He is also adamant that the horse needs better ground to maximise the chaser’s turning pace, hence why Coleman was given the call-up over the likes of Yorkshire-based Danny Cook and Henry Brooke.

“I’ve always liked Aidan. He’s very good at getting a horse settled,” said Ellison.

“Aidan says the horse will get a two-and-a- half miles, but you need plenty of stamina for the Arkle over two miles.”

Victory for Forest Bihan in the Arkle, a race that celebrates the greatest chaser of all, would provide Ellison with a first winner at the Festival.

It would also be a first Grade One for Coleman, one of the more surprising omissions from the jockey’s CV as he forges new alliances with the likes of Jonjo O’Neill and leading owner JP McManus. Also Festival-bound is Vroum Vroum Mag, who had to dig deep to land the the Doncaster Mares’ Hurdle under Paul Townend.

Trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Rich Ricci, this did not appear to be Champion Hurdle form and the horse is likely to defend her Mares Hurdle crown.

A downbeat Townend said: “She got a good jump at the last and ground it out well, but I don’t think it’s her true run.

“On ratings you’d have expected her to do it a bit easier than that, but she’s won, which I suppose is the main thing,” Townend added.

While the handicap chase went to Upsilon Bleu under Middlehan jockey Henry Brooke, Ziga Boy produced a brilliant front-running display to become the first dual winner of the Sky Bet Chase.

Alan King’s grey had failed to get his head in front since his success 12 months ago in the race formerly known as the Great Yorkshire Chase, but jumped impeccably at the head of affairs under Tom Bellamy and had enough in the tank to hold off the strong-finishing Looking Well by three and a half lengths.

A tilt at the Grand National is a possibility.

Bellamy said: “That’s my first big Saturday winner, so I’m absolutely chuffed.

“I was too fat to ride him last year, so it’s nice he’s gone up in the weights enough for me to get 
on today and it’s all worked out well.”

Speaking from Cheltenham, King said: “I am delighted with that performance.

“I think we can look at the National with him.”