The unbeaten run of the very promising youngster Puffin Billy came to an end at Exeter on Sunday as the Oliver Sherwood trained five-year-old failed to cope with a powerful finish conjured up by Musical Rendezvous, whose performance now gives connections plenty to consider before making a final decision as to where to aim the exciting novice at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival, writes Elliot Slater.
Thought off very much as a speed horse, Jeremy Scott was delighted to see Musical Rendezvous finish powerfully in the heavy ground in the listed Bathwick Tyres Plymouth Novices Hurdle at the Sunday fixture, readily pulling nine-lengths clear of Puffin Billy who seemed to run out of steam when push came to shove going down to the final flight.
Sent off the 5/4 second-favourite in World hurdle betting, Melodic Rendezvous was ridden with plenty of confidence by Nick Scholfield who got him anchored at the rear of the five-runner field through the first half of the contest before making smooth headway to challenged Puffin BiIly between the final two flights. Once battle was joined the 4/5 favourite found only one pace under pressure and Scott’s pride and joy readily went clear to win with something in hand.
On form the victory was hardly unexpected, the gelded son of the late Terry Mills’ star miler Where or When having won in Grade 1 company at Sandown Park in January when proving too good for Pendra on similarly heavy ground in the Tolworth Hurdle. Such was the reputation of the previously unbeaten Puffin Billy though, that punters looked beyond the bare form and made the Sherwood horse a marginal market leader.
With options in both the Supreme Novices Hurdle, (for which he is now a general 8/1 third-favourite), and the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle over an extra five furlongs, for which he is now rated a 12/1 shot (from 20’s), the chances are that Musical Rendezvous is going to put up a big display wherever he appears at next month’s showcase fixture, in a market that is even rivaling the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting in terms of competition.