Cheltenham's high quality International Meeting threw up some more 2018 Festival clues over the weekend, while in Ireland, a Willie Mullins novice hurdler impressed again...
"Last year’s JLT form is starting to look exceptional with Politologue, Disko and Top Notch all proving to be top quality animals. The winner of that race Yorkhill still has to make an appearance this season but his odds for the Gold Cup have gone as short as 9.08/1."
Cheltenham offers up plenty of festive treats
In a week where both Britain and Ireland were hit with snow and ice and there was a total of eight National Hunt meetings abandoned, the International meeting at Cheltenham showed why it's the course that deserves to be at the heart of the National Hunt game. Not only did the meeting survive adverse weather conditions but it provided top quality fields that threw up plenty of festival clues on the Road to Cheltenham.
Top Notch, top class at Taunton
The first top class race of the week was on Thursday at Taunton. Due to the abandonment of Peterborough on Sunday, Taunton got to host the famous Grade 2 Peterborough Chase.
The Nicky Henderson trained Top Notch went off the 1.51/2 favourite and duly obliged for favourite backers. His most likely target will be the Ryanair where he can be backed at 10.519/2 (from 18.017/1) or god forbid something were to happen to the similarly owned Bristol De Mai, Top Notch can be backed at a whopping 130.0129/1 for the Gold Cup.
Last year's JLT form is starting to look exceptional with Politologue, Disko and Top Notch all proving to be top quality animals. The winner of that race Yorkhill still has to make an appearance this season but his odds for the Gold Cup have gone as short as 9.08/1.
Tears of joy and sadness on Saturday at Cheltenham
The two main races of the day at Cheltenham on Saturday couldn't have been more different. The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup for the staying chasers and the International Hurdle for Champion Hurdle hopefuls.
One race prompted tears of joy from the winning trainer, the other put the main stand into silence.
My Tent Or Yours rolled backed the years in a cracking race with his first win since the 16th of February 2014. A racehorse that is always guaranteed to give his all, the Tent can now be backed at 44.043/1 for the Champion Hurdle from 250.0249/1.
The three time Champion Hurdle runner up showed why he is loved so much by the racing community and even had trainer Nicky Henderson crying in the stands. Melon, who was fancied on the day, and runner up The New One can now be backed at 19.018/1 and 65.064/1 respectively.
Racegoers were left with a sour taste in their mouth after fan favourite Starchitect was fatally injured when seven lengths clear with two fences left. Starchitect has gone so close on many occasions in big races and surely would have had a big say in one of the big handicaps at Cheltenham. Guitar Pete ended up picking up the pieces from the well fancied Clan Des Obeaux and King's Odyssey and I'd advise to keep these horses in mind for the spring festival handicaps.
Triumph hurdle hopefuls stamp authority on market
Many of the horses in the Triumph Hurdle market are yet to even run over obstacles but Apple's Shakira and We Have A Dream have solidified their place at the head of the market.
Both trained by Nicky Henderson and both unbeaten over obstacles in Britain, they really do look like the real deal. Apple's Shakira was at the top of the market prior to Saturday and has remained relatively unchanged in price due to only beating three rivals. She can be backed at 5.04/1 for the Triumph in March while We Have A Dream who has won both starts by 10 lengths since transferring from France can be backed at 13.5.
Next Destination realistic challenger to Samcro
The Ballymore Novices Hurdle looked Samcro's to lose before this weekend but Gordon Elliot and Michael O'Leary would be slightly worried about Next Destination's performance in the Navan Novice Hurdle as the Willie Mullin's star put away good opposition with ease.
In from 20.019/1 to 9.08/1, the well backed favourite pulled away very impressively from Cracking Smart on the run in to win by five lengths. The runner up is likely to contend the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham where he can be backed at 13.5.