We’ve been on a roll here at myracing with five Accumulator Tips landing so far this month in what has been a very positive start to 2019. It wasn’t an overly informative week in terms of big market movers in the antepost markets for the Cheltenham Festival. Nevertheless, there was still plenty of graded action to sink our teeth into that may have pointed horses in a particular direction, especially so in the case of the Ryanair Chase.
In what was a disappointing turn out in the 2019 renewal of the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in terms of numbers, with just three runners, it didn’t disappoint in quality. Altior was imperious once again in making it seventeen wins in succession over obstacles and the Champion Chase looks at his mercy. He was chased home by Fox Norton, who hadn’t been seen since Boxing Day 2017 in the King George. Being beaten seven lengths by likely the best horse in training following a long absence was an encouraging return for Colin Tizzard’s inmate. Another crack at Altior is unlikely according to his trainer, unless the majority of opposition are scared off, so the Ryanair Chase looks a viable option. Fox Norton has a Grade 1 win next to his name on his only start at two and a half miles and the form of his close second to Politologue in the 2017 Tingle Creek reads very well. Given his obvious ability and unexposed profile at the trip, not many could dispute that the Ryanair is the correct route to go down at Cheltenham. Widely available at 14/1, that may be underestimating him.
Following his Kempton victory on Boxing Day against a classy field, all eyes were on Mister Fisher in the Supreme Trial at Haydock on Saturday. Despite still looking very much a work in progress, he was a relatively comfortable winner although the margin was only two and a half lengths. How well he rates up to his stablemate and current Supreme favourite, Angels Breath, is a bit of an unknown, but he deserves his place. Another who has earned his shot is Thomas Darby. He was a ready winner at Taunton on Saturday, but was entitled to be as the 1/5 favourite. His form prior to that has plenty of substance to it though as he beat Grade 1 winner Elixir De Nutz on hurdling debut and was only five lengths behind Mister Fisher at Kempton. Even though there are a number of strong contenders at present, he could be slightly forgotten about at 25/1.
Having climbed up the ranks since joining Noel Meade, Tout Est Permis made it three on the bounce for his new handler and took his form to a different level on Sunday. In a race previously won by Gold Cup winner Don Cossack and Sizing John in recent years, it’s a race to take note of. He needed every inch of the trip to get the better of Sub Lieutenant, but showed real guts to do so. The runner up is rated 157 and being just a six year old, Tout Est Permis may well have even more to come. To be a Gold Cup contender at this stage of his career is probably a bit too much to ask, but a go at the Ryanair could definitely be on the cards.
After what can only be described as a sensational performance at Ascot on Saturday, Cyrname produced an outstanding RPR of 170. He jumped his rivals into the ground in a twenty-one length romp. The issue surrounding him is that all of his wins have come at right-handed tracks. But after a performance like that it could be hard for connections not to be lured into the temptation of the Cheltenham Festival. The Ryanair would probably be the race for him, but the track configuration would be a major worry.
Her career never quite took off over hurdles, but since tackling fences, Camelia De Cotte has looked a different animal. Five wins from six over fences with the latest twenty length romp being her most impressive, she could be Cheltenham bound. Her only defeat over the larger obstacles came against the opposite sex, but that form reads well with the winner having won a Grade 1 since. It’s likely that a handicap would be the most suitable option for her and the Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase could be the answer over two and a half miles.
Nicky Henderson doesn’t appear short on novice hurdlers this season and Elusive Belle only added to his contenders at Wincanton on Thursday. Making her yard and hurdling debut, she created quite the impression when winning by nineteen lengths under Sam Waley-Cohen. The pair never broke sweat and there is no telling what level she could reach. But graded company surely awaits and being a general 10/1 chance for the Mares’ Novice Hurdle on the Thursday of the Festival, will have her supporters.
This weekend sees action return to Prestbury Park with Festival Trial’s Day. One of the most poignant fixtures of the season when looking ahead to the ‘Greatest Show On Turf’, it’s bound to throw up plenty of clues. You will be able to find our selections on our Cheltenham Tips page. Elsewhere on Saturday there is plenty of graded racing at Doncaster too. There is also a fascinating card at Gowran Park on Thursday which features the Thyestes Handicap Chase as well as the Galmoy Hurdle which could see the return of current Gold Cup favourite, Presenting Percy.