Joseph O'Brien announced this morning that his star Arkle Challenge Trophy contender Le Richebourg would miss next month's Cheltenham Festival through injury. However, as soon as the news broke it left many wondering whether Defi Du Seuil would be re-routed to the two-mile showpiece in favour of the JLT Novices' Chase later in the festival.
JP McManus owns both star novice chasers and the instant slashing of Defi Du Seuil's odds for the Arkle suggest that he could well head to the opening day Grade 1 on March 12, but should McManus and Defi Du Seuil's trainer Philip Hobbs decide to switch the star's Cheltenham target then they would be making a mistake.
A former winner of the Triumph Hurdle, Defi Du Seuil has shown his class around the undulations of Prestbury Park, but while he has put in some accomplished jumping displays this season, which included a fine win in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase last time out, it has been his chase performances at Cheltenham that have seen him fail to win.
Sent to the Arkle Trial last year, Defi Du Seuil could find no rhythm over his fences in that red-hot 2m contest, and he was thrashed by Lalor, who now heads the betting for the Arkle following Le Richebourg's scratching.
Upped in trip for the remainder of his three novice chases this season, Defi Du Seuil scooted clear at Exeter over 2m 3f 48y, while he hit the front too early when beaten by Lostintranslation in the Dipper Novices' Chase on New Year's Day over 2m 4f 127y.
A career best over fences in the 2m 4f 10y Scilly Isles Novices' Chase just emphasised the fact that the six-year-old can find it a lot easier to go half-a-stride slower with his jumping over two miles proving a little sketchy, so he must remain at the interim distance, so he can get into a rhythm and he would be the one to beat in the JLT Novices' Chase.
Connections have already outlined their plans to make a late call, but the JLT must be the target if the JP McManus-owned star wins at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.