After a few weeks of action that really cemented the markets for the Festival races, things got a bit quieter in the past seven days. That said, there were a few interesting clues to the big four days in March, including plenty of Graded action and a few big handicaps. The action picks up again this weekend, however, with the Clarence House at Ascot and Peter Marsh at Haydock. We’ll have selections for all of the main action in our ITV Racing tips!
Finishing second in the Albert Bartlett at last year’s Festival, Ok Corral stamped his credentials for this year’s premier event with a dominant performance to win the Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick on Saturday. Only his second run over fences, he jumped exceptionally well and cruised clear in the closing stages to win by a very cosy six lengths. He’s now the clear 4/1 favourite for the National Hunt chase and given the way he jumps and travels, there is little to discourage you from him. Both Secret Investor, who finished second to him, and Impulsive Star, who won the Classic Chase, join him towards the top of the market for the same contest.
You simply can’t discourage the fantastic Top Notch, who built on a good seasonal return over hurdles when winning the Listed Chase at Kempton on Saturday by a street. He jumped sublimely and wasn’t in the mood to be denied, cruising clear to score by six lengths ahead of Black Corton and Charbel. Nicky Henderson says that his gutsy eight-year-old is on target for the Ryanair Chase, currently a widely available 12/1 shot.
Largely ignored in the market for the Lanzarote at Kempton on Saturday, the in-form Big Time Dancer proved the naysayers wrong with a clinical performance to win Kempton’s feature race of the day. He travelled extremely well and found plenty when asked to pick up, earning him quotes of 16/1 for the Coral Cup. Given the way he travelled, you couldn’t discredit him from an opportunity up in trip on the biggest stage. It was, however, a disappointing day for Kloud Gate, who finished lame in the contest, remaining the same price in the same market.
After such a promising start to his career, Felix Desjy had been a shade disappointing prior to his run in the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown on Sunday. The quirky six-year-old picked the perfect time to return to form, however, when making all to readily dispatch the field. In a race that has been won by Vautour and Min, it certainly was a disappointing renewal, and the bare form is hard to really quantify given how easily Felix Desjy was allowed to dictate. Nevertheless, he’s now 16/1 for the Martin Pipe.
Although he’d won his last two starts over fences, including a Grade 3, Winter Escape was ignored in the market for the Total Event Rental Novice Chase at Punchestown on Sunday. The market piled into the lightly raced and highly touted A Plus Tard, who was receiving ten pounds from the aforementioned Aidan Anthony Howard trained horse. That weight wouldn’t be enough, however, as Winter Escape comfortably took that rivals measure late on, receiving quotes of 20/1 for the Festival closer, the Grand Annual.
The feature action comes from Ascot on Saturday, who host the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase. The race is headlined by the potential rematch between Altior and Un De Sceaux, who collided for one of the best renewals of the Tingle Creek in recent years. Haydock also hosts a great card, with Ramses De Teillee heading the market for the Peter Marsh, as he looks to avenge his latest second in the Welsh Grand National.