There were Festival clues aplenty at Newbury on Saturday as several stars aimed to get their Cheltenham hopes kick-started...
"The Champion Chase looks very much like a two horse race at the moment between old rivals Altior and Min. Available to back on the Exchange at 1.73 and 4.7 respectively, Min will more than likely have to put in a career-best performance to win the race if the same Altior that we saw on Saturday turns up."
Champion Chase at the mercy of Altior
The stars were out on Saturday for the Betfair sponsored Newbury card but none as exciting as Altior. The dual Cheltenham Festival winner returned from a long absence due to a wind operation to win in emphatic style, beating Politologue by four lengths.
Politologue a two time graded winner this term was as short as 4.1 for the Champion Chase in a few weeks' time but can now be backed at 18.5. The Champion Chase looks very much like a two horse race at the moment between old rivals Altior and Min. Available to back on the Exchange at 1.73 and 4.7 respectively, Min will more than likely have to put in a career-best performance to win the race if the same Altior that we saw on Saturday turns up.
Native River steadily backed for Gold Cup glory
The Cheltenham Gold Cup at the start of the season looked to be the greatest line up in the race this decade; although that seems to be the case most years. However it's been a bitterly disappointing build-up with most of the horses prominent in the betting at the start of the year failing to achieve what's been expected of them.
One horse who has been shortening all year without actually racing is Native River who made his return to action in the Grade 2 Betfair Denman Chase. He was very impressive albeit only beating two rivals but the 12 length win could easily have been more. With only one run this season Native River is second favourite for the big race and can be backed at 7.0.
Kalashnikov now Supreme second favourite
The biggest race of the day was the Betfair Hurdle that went to the exciting novice Kalashnikov to the delight of many punters. Sent off the 10.0 favourite the Amy Murphy trained star always travelled well and was good value for his four length win. Many think this horse will be even better on a sounder surface and it shows in the betting for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle as he's now second favourite at 8.6 having been 40.0 on Saturday morning.
The final race on the card was a high quality bumper with plenty of horses coming into the race with top form; it was the Anthony Honeyball trained Acey Milan who triumphed in impressive fashion, winning by 12 lengths. This horse clearly loves soft ground so if he turns up in the Champion Bumper and the ground is soft, the 10.0 that is available now surely won't be on offer. I don't think there was too many people who begrudged his trainer the victory after he lost stable star Fountains Windfall during the week in unfortunate circumstances.
Calvados the toast of Warwick
The Mares' Listed chase at Naas on Saturday once more pitted Mullins against Elliot and it was the much talked about Benie Des Dieux who finally proved herself in top class company. The mare has been troubled with injuries over the last few years so it was great to see her get her chance. Willie Mullins has her entered in the Mares' Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase with prices of 11.5 and 20.0 respectively.
A new Arkle contender came into view on Saturday at Warwick in the shape of Saint Calvados who bolted up by 22 lengths in the Grade 2 on the card. Now the 8.0 third favourite for the Arkle behind the brilliant Irish pair Footpad and Petit Mouchoir, the Harry Wittington trained horse was matched at a whopping 230.0 earlier in the season.