Last weekend saw us return to Cheltenham for their two-day International Meeting, with victories from Easyland, Mister Fisher and Call Me Lord – but to name a few – providing punters with plenty to mull over in regards to the Festival.
The show rolls onto Ascot this weekend, with the Berkshire venue playing host to their two-day Christmas Racing Weekend – runner-by-runner previews and selections for the action will be available on our free horse racing tips page.
Taking a closer look at the weekend just gone, Joe Eccles has picked out five things he has learned from the action – read his views below.
Easyland Can Give Tiger A Race In The Cross Country
Love it or loathe it, the Cross Country course at Cheltenham was back in action on Friday – with French raider Easyland leading home a 1-2 for his trainer David Cottin.
The five-year-old appears to be improving at a rate of knots – winning his four starts prior to Friday’s Cheltenham victory – and a meeting with reigning Festival winner Tiger Roll now looks on the agenda in March.
Antepost quotes of 7/1 for that race could look generous considering the Gordon Elliott-trained Tiger Roll is likely to arrive on the back of a less than ideal preparation.
Left-Handed No Issue For Lord
Despite his connections prior reservations, Call Me Lord proved that going left-handed was not a problem when taking Saturday’s International Hurdle.
He has been cut to a best-priced 16/1 for the Champion Hurdle on the back of that performance, but Saturday’s race appeared to lack major strength in depth – and with that in mind – it is no surprise to see his stablemate Pentland Hills still significantly shorter for the Festival Day One feature despite finishing five lengths behind him on Saturday.
Fisher A Smart Prospect Over 2m4f+
Nicky Henderson brought up the first of a 24/1 treble at Cheltenham on Saturday when Mister Fisher took the Ryman Novices’ Chase.
Always seemingly well thought of by his connections, the five-year-old found the step up to 2m4f firmly in his favour when scoring on Saturday.
Better ground should suit the son of Jeremy, and the JLT Novices’ Chase is likely to be his Festival target – albeit further improvement will be needed to land that prize.
Back To The Drawing Board For Dufresne
Arriving with a massive reputation having won a Point to Point, bumper and maiden hurdle all in an impressive fashion, Andy Dufresne was sent off at odds of just 1/3 to land a 2m4f Grade 2 at Navan on Sunday.
Despite travelling powerfully in the lead throughout much of the race, however, the odds-on favourite failed to pick up under pressure – eventually succumbing to the challenge of the Paul Nolan-trained Latest Exhibition.
His unbeaten record now lost, and with that run far from proving his stamina over 2m4f, it could be connections decide to drop him back to two miles for his next start – that run should provide us with a much better idea on where he ranks amongst the top novice hurdlers.
Uhtred Looks The Real Deal
Not many races have a stronger roll of honour than Navan’s “Future Champions” bumper – with horses such as Don Cossack, Death Duty, Samcro and Envoi Allen amongst recent winners.
Sunday’s renewal appeared to produce another potential top-notcher in the shape of Uhtred – who justified favouritism to score by four and a half lengths.
Unfortunately, the Joseph O’Brien-trained four-year-old is ineligible for the Champion Bumpers at Cheltenham and Punchestown, but he is likely to have plenty of options in his career going forward – so certainly looks one to keep on the right side of.