Top Irish chaser, Florida Pearl, held off Best Mate and Bacchanal to win the Pertemps King George V1 Chase at Kempton

Florida Pearl got his act together in the style of the best chaser in England and Ireland with an emphatic victory in today’s Pertemps King George V1 Chase at Kempton.

Ireland’s best-loved chaser, who had finished second to First Gold in the £150,000 race last year, jumped for fun in the hands of Adrian Maguire, who had stepped in for the ride at the 11th hour.

Florida Pearl, who is now best priced 12-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in which he has already finished second and third, now heads for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown en-route for the Festival in March.

Trainer Willie Mullins was faced with a jockey problem when regular riders Paul Carberry and Ruby Walsh were required at the big Leopardstown fixture. He booked J P McNamara on the understanding that Adrian Maguire would take over if he became available.

Maguire had left his Faringdon home and was on the M1 en-route for Wetherby when that meeting was called off. His next destination was due to be Market Rasen and when the Lincolnshire fixture was cancelled he did an about turn and arrived at Kempton just before the first race.

He said with a smile: “Different days mean different things to different people. I had my highest moment when winning the King George on Barton Bank in 1993 and then my lowest inthe race a year later.”

That was when Barton Bank looked set to win again only for them to part company at the last with the race at their mercy.

Florida Pearl cruised into the straight in front and held on by three-quarters of a length from Best Mate and Bacchanal. France’s First Gold, the 6-4 favourite, could do no better than finish fourth.

First Gold’s trainer Francois Doumen reported: “As he gets older he may be taking longer to reach his peak.”

First Gold is a 10-1 chance for the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind market leader Sackville, quoted generally at around 7-1.