Racing Review and Cheltenham Festival 2014 Tips – With the Festival only 2 months away, each week's racing is crucial as trainer’s look to complete their final preparations before the highlight of the Nationa Hunt season in March. Here is a round-up of the all important action from the past week!
In terms of the Champion Chase, once again all eyes were on Sire De Grugy (11/4 Coral – Champion Chase) at Ascot on Saturday. He performed fantastically as he completed a hat-trick of notable victories in the Sodexo Clarence House Chase. Hidden Cyclone (16/1 BetVictor – Champion Chase) finished in second eleven lengths behind and Kauto Stone (50/1 Stan James – Champion Chase) came in third. The Tingle Creek and Desert Orchid Chase winner looked different class in the closing stages as he stormed past Hidden Cyclone over the last two fences. Somersby (25/1 Ladbrokes – Champion Chase) sadly, was an unfortunate early exit in the race. This result is sure to silence those questioning Sire De Grugy’s stamina, and if Sprinter Sacre is an absentee in the Champion Chase, then this horse looks to be the one they will all have to beat.
Elsewhere on the Ascot card, the Harry Fry trained Highland Retreat (16/1 Stan James – Mares' Hurdle) was an impressive winner when taking the Mares Hurdle catching the eye. On this evidence, the horse clearly wants plenty of give in the ground and is not a certain runner at the Festival, but she was cut for the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle after the race anyway.
Taquin Du Seuil (8/1 BetVictor – JLT Novices' Chase), a contender for the JLT Novices’ Chase was left with little to beat in a Novices’ Chase at Haydock as O'Faolain's Boy pulled-up in back straight. The winner’s jumping still looked far from perfect, but he has been a solid performer so far this season and could well continue to improve for the Festival. In terms of one runner who could challenge him, the Henry De Bromhead trained Sizing Gold (25/1 Stan James – JLT Novices' Chase) could head straight to the Festival after a non-staying second to Foxrock at Naas on Saturday. The ground was possibly too soft for this horses’ liking and he is sure to prefer the better ground likely at the Festival.
Melodic Rendezvous (25/1 Betfred – Champion Hurdle) was much too good for Ptit Zig (50/1 Stan James – Champion Hurdle) at Haydock in a Champion Hurdle Trial, showing that he is a contender for top honours once more. He returned with a comfortable success, finding much more for pressure than the Paul Nicholls trained runner, beating him by four and a half lengths. Although Melodic Rendezvous holds an entry for the Champion Hurdle, connections are still undecided whether he’ll head there or not as he is sure to face far stiffer opposition than he did at Haydock.
Zamdy Man (25/1 Betfred – Supreme Novices' Hurdle) showed that he is still improving this season when taking the Rossington Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, beating the expensive French import Un Temps Pour Tout (25/1 BetVictor – Supreme Novices' Hurdle) by one and three quarter lengths. With the race a recognised Supreme Novices' trial, both the winner and runner-up are likely to head to that race at the Festival next. It would be unusual however, if Zamdy Man were to go on to win that race as a second season novice, but the last two winners of this trial have gone on to win at the Festival.
Over in Ireland, Mouse Morris stated that Rule The World (20/1 Ladbrokes – World Hurdle) will now head straight to the World Hurdle after making all and staying on well to win at Naas. The horse showed that stamina doesn’t seem to be an issue and he is sure to have claims at Cheltenham. Dunguib finished third in the race on his comeback from nearly 3 years off the track and connections seemed delighted with his run. The horse was reported to be 100% after the race.
Another horse coming back from a long absence was Last Instalment (25/1 Betfred – Ryaniar Chase), who ran at Thurles on Thursday. He finished a close third after an encouraging run behind the winner Texas Jack. That horse could well head to the Ryanair but is more than likely going to stay at home. Connections of Last Instalment are eyeing up the Irish Hennessy as the next race for the horse.
Willie Mullins’ Festival pack strengthened further when Clondaw Court (16/1 BetVictor – Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle) also won at Thurles on Thursday. Ensuring he kept his unbeaten record intact the seven year old put in a mighty impressive performance and could head to the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett at the Festival.
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