Tony Calvin takes an early look at the weekend's superb action, including the Betfair Tingle Creek, but not before he tells us why a star Chaser might be on course for the Champion Hurdle...
"In terms of class nothing in the Champion Hurdle would hold a candle to the 175-rated Altior, and it is worth remembering what a superb novice hurdler he was back in 2016 when his 7-length defeat of Min in the Supreme - with a certain Buveur D'Air back in third - was a stunning effort."
I wouldn't be the biggest fan of concentrating on the Cheltenham Festival from so far out - punters prefer the here and now - but I could make an exception for the Champion Hurdle.
It would be stretching it to say that the race is in danger of falling apart, but it certainly looks a very winnable contest, especially after Buveur D'Air's injury in coming second in the Fighting Fifth last weekend and news that the impressive Morgiana winner Saldier is out until the New Year after failing to please Willie Mullins of late.
Throw in the fact that the 4/1 favourite Klassical Dream could only finish third to Saldier in that Morgiana, and up-and-comers like Pentland Hills, Honeysuckle, Fusil Raffles and the Royal Bond winner Envoi Allen still have plenty to prove on the big stage, and it got me wondering if the trainer of one of the big Chasing guns may just be considering a switch to the smaller obstacles.
And none would possibly make more sense than Altior.
Champion Hurdle tilt for Altior?
I was actually surprised to see him in the Champion Hurdle betting on the Exchange - his last-traded price is [30.0] - but the more you think about it, the more Nicky Henderson and his owners could just be tempted.
A lot has been made of his slower-than-ideal jumping in recent weeks - led by the excellent Ruby Walsh's analysis on Racing TV - and what route the horse takes now is up for discussion after his defeat by Cyrname at Ascot.
It is obviously far, far too early to be getting disappointed with him just yet - and he arguably only ran 2lb or so below his best there - but the Gold Cup wouldn't be on my radar after that, the Ryanair is not a flagship race and Altior has obviously been there and done it in the Champion Chase.
So I just wonder whether Henderson would consider a fresh challenge, and an outside tilt at the Champion Hurdle.
In terms of class nothing in the Champion Hurdle would hold a candle to the 175-rated Altior, and it is worth remembering what a superb novice hurdler he was back in 2016 when his 7-length defeat of Min in the Supreme - with a certain Buveur D'Air back in third - was a stunning effort.
If Henderson said he was indeed tempted, then Altior would be a single-figure poke. And he would be my idea of the correct favourite.
Anyway, it was just a thought. It will probably come to nothing.
I have actually been chucking a few quid at big prices on Silver Streak since his third in the Fighting Fifth, as I think last year's (distant) Champion Hurdle third was ridden with an eye to the future on unfavourably heavy ground there, and the 7yo has plenty of improvement in him when he gets a better surface.
He looks a big price to me at [65.0] and bigger on the exchange.
Can't argue with Defi's price in Betfair Tingle Creek
Anyway, back to the aforementioned here and now and some great weekend racing at Sandown and Aintree, led by the Betfair Tingle Creek at the Esher track.
Defi Du Seuil still has a way go to reach the level of Un De Sceaux (and others in the eight-strong field) but I wouldn't argue with him being the 6/4 favourite after what he did to Politologue in the Shloer Chase and the drying forecast is no problem with him.
The Grade 1 is one of eight Saturday races priced up on the Sportsbook, and I was all set to put up Malaya as a bet in the 2m handicap hurdle.
Then the price disappeared.
The early 12s in the marketplace soon went and the Sportsbook's 10/1 became 7s on Tuesday morning, and you can see why.
Okay, she didn't set the world alight at Ascot last time but maybe she just needed that after a brief spell chasing and she wasn't given a hard time either.
She was dropped 2lb for it too, and he is now just 4lb higher than when beating Monsieur Le Coq by 1 ½ lengths in the Imperial Cup over course and distance back in March, where she would probably have won a lot more convincingly but for a bad blunder 2 out.
She looks weighted to go very close and the 7/1 each way, four places, is probably still fair. But I hate missing a price and I will revisit her claims on Friday.
Paul Nicholls also has a strong hand in the Betfair London National with Captain Cattistock and As De Mee (the latter is also in at Aintree) - and he has Grand Sancy in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase - but, again, I am happy to see what the final fields are and how the weather plays out.
It is currently heavy on the hurdles track and soft on the chase at Sandown, but it looks a very pleasant drying week, so perhaps the mudlarks may not have it all their own way, after all.
Go for an Adventure at Aintree
Up at Aintree it is currently soft, with the weather set largely fair, and the racing loses little in comparison to Sandown.
The class action is the Many Clouds Chase where Native River heads the betting at between 6/5 and 13/8 in the marketplace, but he could have his work cut out if the likes of Might Bite, Black Corton and Definitly Red rock up, too.
Then again, he is unpenalised for not winning since the 2018 Gold Cup and he could take plenty of stopping if straight enough on a track he is one-from-one on.
The Becher Chase and the Grand Sefton will be bigger betting races, and the Sportsbook are enticing ante-post punters in by paying an extra place on the former and usual each-way terms on the latter (most firms are expecting the 19-runner Sefton to cut up and are going just three places).
Ascot winner Flying Angel looks a pretty solid 5/1 each way chance in the Sefton, four places, and I could not put anyone off him.
He is 3lb well-in, and he deserves to be the favourite but the one I suggest you chuck some cash at is Kayf Adventure at 16/1 each way.
You have to say that he probably did well to finish third over 3m (a trip that may stretch him) at Bangor on his return considering he lost both of his front shoes - not that I would be an expert on whether that makes a massive difference - and, dropped 1lb and stepping down in trip, I think he is set to go well.
All his best form has come at and around this shorter trip with give in the ground, and he looks on a pretty workable handicap mark now with that run under his belt.