It's Sunday, and that means it's time for week three of Daryl Carter's Cheltenham Festival Focus, where he takes aim at the Albert Bartlett with a 16/1 tip...
"It was also the race 2021 Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier won before going on to victory at the Cheltenham Festival, and all bar one winner in the last ten years has gone on to run over 2m6f plus."
It's week three, and it's time to add another horse to our growing ante-post list, but before that, let's take a look back over the week at the notable performances...
Just magic as mare leaves rivals in a daze
Magic Daze was impressive on just her second start over fences at Cork last Sunday. She ran out a commanding winner by 25 lengths. She was 44.4 lengths faster than the following handicap on the card won by Epson Du Houx rated 147.
She has a current rating at the time of writing of 135 (due to go up). She has a very, very bright future, but two-mile options look few and far between in terms of the Cheltenham Festival. She is a 16/1 chance for the Arkle but may need to step up in trip for the Mares Chase in which she is a 14/1 shot.
2021 Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier got off the mark over fences at the second attempt. He is now a 10/1 shot for both the Festival Novices' Chase and the National Hunt Chase - he may not have gears for the former though.
Cool the jets on Sharjah - He didn't improve
Sharjah ran out a ready winner of the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle last Sunday to beat his two rivals, for which he was 12 and 19 pounds clear of on official ratings.
Plenty of pundits were raving about the performance yet the time comparison with Dusart Diamond's win over two furlongs further suggest that it was not a Champion Hurdle ESC performance.
Running the race's side by side from the Morgiana first hurdle shows just how slow Zanahiyr went out in front.
At five-out (the halfway stage of the Morgiana), the leader Zanahiyr was 3.19 seconds or 12.76 lengths off of the back of the Listed Mares Hurdle field. Alarmingly, Dusart Diamond was 4.44 seconds or 17.76 lengths ahead at the final flight, and they had run two furlongs further.
It was far from a Champion Hurdle like performance, and nothing about this suggests he should be shorter than his SP price of 11/1 in last years contest.
Dusart Diamond, Royal Kahala and Western Victory, particularly the latter, should all be kept on side, but future targets are unknown.
One to watch - Short term
On Tuesday at Warwick, four-year-old Hartur D'Oudairies was a very impressive winner of a Novice Hurdle for Dan Skelton, scampering away in good style. He looks like a very promising horse.
Simply the best - two stunning Haydock performances
A Plus Tard took the Betfair Chase on Saturday in no more than a common canter beating Royal Pagaille into a 22 length second. He looks the real deal, and even his 7/2 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup looks good value when considering the entire betting list - half of which won't run.
He has it all. He is a fast, fluent jumper with stacks of stamina and speed and is still on the upgrade.
We saw a similar exciting performance from Bravemansgame, who answered all questions by taking his form to a new heights when running out an easy winner over the 155 rated Itchy Feet.
His jumping and his ability to put himself right at fences is his greatest asset. He will surely be suited even better to 3m and is now a 5/1 favourite for the Festival Novices Chase.
Time comparisons of the two
A Plus Tard on this evidence is far superior to the Novice Bravemansgame as expected, but it's very positive signs for the younger horse.
A Plus Tard's final circuit time was 2.58.47 compared to Bravemansgame's 2.59.35 - 3.52 lengths faster.
From three-out to the finish line A Plus Tard was 7.64 lengths quicker.
Both horses did things in an easy style, and both look as though they will go very close at Cheltenham in their respective targets!
Novicey mistakes shoudn't deter punters from Bob O claims
Bob Olinger could be the third Cheltenham Festival winner written in this column today along with the two mentioned above after he ran out a very convincing winner at Gowran Park on Saturday on chase debut.
The 2021 Ballymore was far less convincing than A Plus Tard or Bravemansgame with his jumping overall, but he has such a sizeable engine that it would be folly to think that his jumping ability won't improve off the back of this debut effort.
This wouldn't be a time performance to get over-excited about, but he has already proven himself the highest level over hurdles, and it was more about getting a clear round than anything else on Saturday.
That race had strength in depth, unlike many of the Novice Chases in Britain. His jumping needs to be watched closely next time, but it's no surprise to see the 7/2 for the Marsh Novice Chase long gone, and he is now a 2/1 chance.
He could come up against the likes of Appreciate It, My Drogo and or Ferny Hollow, so while the boat has been missed in terms of value for money, it could be a hot renewal anyway.
Eric Bloodaxe to cut down Albert Bartlett rivals
Now I would love to have any of the above mentioned Bob Olinger, Bravemansgame or A Plus Tard in this section, but I am a man of my word, and there will be no single figure prices in this column before December.
With that said, I wasn't impressed with much else other than Magic Daze, whose plans are unknown, so I wanted to go back to week one, where we touched on Eric Bloodaxe.
The time figure he recorded on seasonal return at Navan was enough to suggest that this horse wants much further than the 2m3f he won impressively over on that occasion.
It was also the race 2021 Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier won before going on to victory at the Cheltenham Festival, and all bar one winner in the last ten years has gone on to run over 2m6f plus.
Strong bumper form suggests sky's the limit
He had some excellent bumper form in two starts, beating Ferny Hollow, Wide Reciever and Run For Oscar, who are all useful horses on their day, and it was only an injury that saw him perform below par the next twice.
The return to form on hurdles debut at Navan was a welcome sign that his career is now set to get back on track, and I don't want to wait for him to score again to see his price cut from the 16/1 available today.
He looks as good a bet as any in the Albert Bartlett, and with a solid bumper foundation behind him and open to significant improvement once stepped up in trip, he could be half the price on the back of his next outing.
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DARYL'S ANTE-POST PORTFOLIO
Back Mr Incredible for the National Hunt Chase @ 17.016/1 1pt win NOW 17.016/1
Back My Mate Mozzie for the Supreme Novice Hurdle @ 15.014/1 1pt win NOW 15.014/1
Back Eric Bloodaxe for the Albert Bartlett @ 17.016/1 1pt win NOW