The Paul Nolan trained Latest Exhibition suffered his first defeat over fences on Sunday in the Grade Two Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown, where his handler believes the heavy ground on the day was his undoing.
The gelding went from strength to strength last season over hurdles landing three out of his five contests, seeing off some of the best novices throughout the year including Andy Dufresne, Fury Road and Longhouse Poet.
The only horse to beat him last term came when when he was tried at two miles which showed that he was a stayer and not a pace merchant and he was outclassed by the Gordon Elliott trained Abacadabras who finished a narrow second in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
His win in the Grade One Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing festival saw him tackle his furthest trip over two and three-quarter miles and proved to bring the best out of him.
He was an unlucky runner up on his final start over hurdles when just being pipped on the line in the Grade One Albert Bartlett at the festival by the Willie Mullins trained Monkfish.
Now chasing, the seven year old made a very pleasing debut over course and distance at Punchestown, when jumping to a good standard and landing a Beginners Chase, but was underwhelming on Sunday and will need to be better than that to compete at the top level.
Nolan will send his stable star to Leopardstown at Christmas next time out and just hopes the ground will not turn heavy again.
(Credit ATR) He said: “Of course we were disappointed – but I just think with the extreme heavy ground, possibly he didn’t just act as well on it.
“On the day he was definitely beaten by a better horse – and hopefully there’ll be a little bit of not-so-heavy ground on another day, and we can head for Leopardstown at Christmas.
“Hopefully he’ll handle the ground that bit better, but certainly that’s what we blame anyway. He just didn’t act the same or pick up the same in the really heavy conditions.”