Racing Review and Cheltenham Festival 2014 Tips – Plenty of Festival clues on offer over the past week. Here's a round-up of the all important racing action!
Donald McCain's seven-year-old, Corrin Wood (16/1 Stan James – RSA Novices Chase), secured his third win from as many starts over fences as he made every yard of the running in a Novice Chase at Warwick at the weekend. He beat the useful Black Thunder, a leading novice in the Paul Nicholls' camp and favorite for the race. Corrin Wood controlled the race from the front and stayed on well towards the end. He looks a real progressive type and connections have stated that he’ll be aimed at the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, with the National Hunt Chase an alternative option. The latter is only open to amateur riders and McCain is keen for his stable jockey to keep the successful partnership intact so the RSA looks the much more likely move.
Another progressive type is the Willie Mullins trained Un De Sceaux (12/1 Betfred – Chmapion Hurdle). The horse cruised to victory when beating his two rivals at Navan on Sunday. It looks likely that he'll reappear in the Grade 2 Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park in February, before heading to the Champion Hurdle – taking the same route as Hardy Eustace did when winning in 2005. This unbeaten six year old is yet to face top quality opposition, and the race at Gowran is sure to be more of a challenge than he is used to. We’ll find out how good he really is come February and how realistic his chances for Champion Hurdle glory are.
Leighton Aspell showed us once again why he is having one of the best seasons of his career, when winning the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick on Saturday onboard Shotgun Paddy (8/1 BetVictor – National Hunt Chase). Under a patient and quiet ride, the Emma Lavelle trained seven year-old was given a perfectly timed ride, jumping into the lead two out and ridden out strongly in testing conditions. With such an impressive performance it is no surpise to see him at the head of the betting for the National Hunt Chase at the Festival.
Deputy Dan (16/1 BetVictor – Neptune Novices Hurdle) ran out an impressive winner of the Leamington Hurdle at Warwick on Saturday, a race that was made easier when Rathvinden fell three out when beginning his challenge. The Leamington is often seen as a trial for the Neptune, and after following up his victory last month with another impressive display, his odds were cut significantly for the Cheltenham race. Worryingly after the race, the horse was taken to the vets after suffering a slight arterial nick on a hind leg. By Monday however, he was back at trainer Oliver Sherwood’s yard, and connections have since given positive reports.
Lanzarote Hurdle winner Saphir De Rheu (16/1 Stan James – World Hurdle) looks another strong World Hurdle prospect for owner Andy Stewart. His colours are likely to already be carried by the likes of Big Bucks, Celestial Halo and Salubrious who are all aiming for the staying hurdle crown. This five year old had to carry an extra 15lbs thanks to his previous victory, but that didn't pose too much of a problem as he pulled well clear of a strong field to win by an impressive six lengths. If connections decide to split their horses, the Coral Cup could also be an option for the horse.
Tolworth winner, and third in the race last year, Royal Boy (16/1 Coral – Neptune Novices Hurdle) is reportedly being aimed at the Neptune at the Festival. Since 1990, four horses went on to win either the Supreme or Novices in March, so connections will be hoping to make it five. Trainer Nicky Henderson had a one, two in this race, with stable jockey Barry Geraghty opting to ride Josses Hill (16/1 Stan James – Supreme Novices Hurdle), who finished runner up. Josses Hill is also in the betting for both the Supreme and the Neptune but looks better suited to the shorter trip of the Supreme.
In other news, Trainer Phillip Hobbs said that he wouldn’t rule out a tilt at the Gold Cup for weekend winner Captain Chris (33/1 Coral – Gold Cup), but admits Ascot and Punchestown are more likely. The former Arkle winner romped to victory in the William Hill Chase with a strong field, including Champion Court and the Irish raider Twinlight, well beaten.
Over in Ireland, the highly touted Vautour (10/1 Betfred – Supreme Novices Hurdle) won the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday. The Willie Mullins’ five year-old was solid, without being spectacular, as he won the Grade 2 race by just three quarters of a-length. With quotes coming in for the Supreme, the evidence from this race shows that Vautour will need to improve again to win the competitive opening race of the Festival. Connections are keen to give the horse another race before heading there and we should learn alot more about his chances thereafter.
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