Energumene© Photo Healy Racing
Edwardstone will head straight to the Queen Mother Champion Chase following his narrow defeat in the Albert Bartlett Clarence House Chase.
Alan King’s Arkle hero was returning to the scene of his finest hour when having to settle for a silver medal in the rearranged Grade One.
However, there was plenty of encouragement to take from the head defeat with the nine-year-old actually edging ahead of winner Editeur Du Gite on the run-in before Gary Moore’s likeable front-runner wrestled back the advantage in the shadow of the post.
He will now swerve a previously mooted engagement in the Game Spirit at Newbury and having been made the general 7-4 joint-favourite for the Cheltenham Festival, now has his with sights fixed firmly on a return to Prestbury Park in March.
King said: “He was a little bit fresh. He started to tank down the hill and Tom (Cannon) said he just had to bring him back a wee bit. He probably used a bit of energy getting there and thought probably at the last, we would go away and win. But full marks to the winner.
“Listen, I’m happy. I needed to get this into him today to try to get him ready for the March meeting.
“He will go straight to the Festival. I didn’t want to wait for the Game Spirit, because he needed a run today and then if Newbury was abandoned I’d have been in a bit of trouble. He is perfectly fit, don’t get me wrong, but he needed this to take the edge off him.
“The Kempton race, he only got to the fifth and that did nothing for him, really.
“He was just a bit gassy today. I did stress to Tom beforehand that this was not the be all and end all today and I’m perfectly happy with him.”
Energumene faded into third following an error at the last, but Willie Mullins was far from despondent and hopes the defending champion can thrive once again on the big day in March.
He said: “Up to the second-last we were running a really good race. The winner won on merit and I loved the way that he won after being passed and it was a great performance from the second (Edwardstone) too.
“Hopefully that run will get him used to the new English white fences, we’ve schooled over them at home but he didn’t seem as happy over them today as he did last March. You saw what he did at the first and he was a little bit long at one or two. It’s different and I didn’t expect him to be that way as he’d done plenty of schooling, but he obviously did.
“I think the winner set the pace and won, it was a great performance and I’m not going to take anything away from him. We weren’t able to beat him on the day. We just hope that there’s a different result on the next day for us.”