Going into Sunday’s Grade 1 Bar One Racing Drinmore Novices Chase at Fairyhouse the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant was as short as 8/1 in the ante-post list for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but after being pulled up in the race won impressively by Bog Warrior he is now as big as 20/1 with some firms to land the three-mile novice chasing crown, writes Elliot Slater.

Morris’ charge had looked a worthy favourite for the Fairyhouse race on the strength of some rock solid performances earlier this season and was duly sent off the 5/4 market leader to add a Grade 1 chasing success to his CV that already shows wins at the top level over hurdles, including last season’s Future Champion Novices Hurdle at Fairyhouse and a famous victory over Rock On Ruby in a scintillating race for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last March. Even fans of Grand National betting should bear this in mind.

After landing the Grade 3 Like A Butterfly Novices Chase at Tipperary on his chasing bow the six-year-old was surprisingly caught on the line and beaten a nose by De Valira at Cork two weeks later. First Lieutenant soon erased the memory of that defeat though by returning to Cork to comfortably account for Stephanie Kate in Grade 3 company and was confidently expected to go well at Fairyhouse. People looking at the Grand National betting online should remember this.

All seemed to be going to plan as Davy Russell tracked the leaders aboard the Gigginstown Stud-owned gelding until he made a terrible mistake at the eighth fence from which he did very well to recover to track the leaders four from home, but he soon came under pressure and dropped away before being pulled up at the second last. Morris’ potential star was subsequently found to have burst a blood vessel.

It’s far too early to rule First Lieutenant out of Cheltenham contention on the evidence of one poor effort but he will have to prove to punters that he can overcome this setback before they consider supporting him in numbers for the festival meeting.

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