After a frantic festive period, things have started to settle down a tad, though the Cheltenham Festival picture has gotten no clearer after plenty of key contenders flopped. This week did see the emergence of some big market moves, however, with a particular French Champion Four-Year-Old staking his name for the JLT Novices’ Chase. We look back on the last week’s action with a view to the Festival, with another big weekend of ITV Racing tips and action coming from Warwick and Kempton!
Supreme Novice Hurdle
- It was a great day all around for Elixir De Nutz, who landed the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday in gutsy fashion. The short-priced Rathill flopped on the day, leaving Colin Tizzard’s front-runner to make all. He’s now 14/1 for the Festival opener and with Jarvey’s Plate spreadeagling a field at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, that 14th of December form is looking all the better.
Arkle Novice Chase
- Although he was beaten on the day, there was plenty to like about the bold jumping Knocknanuss at Plumpton on Sunday. He jumped extremely well throughout and rarely touched a twig, only mastered by the JLT favourite Master Dino after two out. That race was run over 2m 4f and I wouldn’t be giving up on Gary Moore’s charge for the Arkle just yet, as a return to a testing two miles should suit him perfectly.
Ultima Handicap Chase
- One of the toughest handicaps at the meeting found a new contender in the form of Beware The Bear, who jumped his rivals into the ground to win a 0-145 handicap at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. He made virtually all and beat a useful field with contempt in the first time blinkers, finding himself 20/1 second favourite for the aforementioned festival race.
- Although we’d want to have seen her given more of a stern test, it was still nice to see the promising Laurina back on the racecourse. She faced just one rival in the Listed Mares’ Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday, cantering home under a motionless Ruby Walsh. Willie Mullins was quick to say there were no plans set in stone for her prior to Cheltenham, but we may see his star out once more before the Festival.
Ballymore Novice Hurdle
- Despite being unfancied in the market, Jarveys Plate jumped into a few Festival notebooks when landing the Listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. He made plenty of late headway and went clear by thirteen lengths at the finish, installed at 20/1 for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle, with his next target being Cheltenham Trial’s Day.
- It was sadly reported that Next Destination is out for the season, with Willie Mullins citing an unfortunate setback. It’s not a serious problem, however, and we’ll be seeing him over fences next year.
Close Brothers Novice Chase
- White Moon got off the mark over fences at Exeter in ready fashion on New Year’s Day, installed as a 16/1 shot for the Close Brothers’ Novice Chase. Given his lowly handicap mark over fences compared to his hurdling rating, he could be an interesting contender for Colin Tizzard.
JLT Novice Chase
- There was much intrigue surrounding the visit of Master Dino to Plumpton on Sunday and he delivered an assured performance for his connections. He jumped soundly and showed a good turn of foot to burst clear on the flat ahead of Arkle candidate Knocknanuss. He was installed into the JLT Novices’ Chase market as favourite after that run and we’re likely to next see him at Sandown for the Scilly Isles Chase, as per the words of his trainer Guillaume Macaire.
- Another who rose toward the top of the market was Lostintranslation, who outbattled Defi Du Seuil to win the Grade 2 Dipper Chase in the final strides. That strong finishing effort bodes well for March and given his profile is mainly progressive, he could easily improve again. There were also positives to take for the latterly named horse, who still sits fourth favourite for the contest, four points behind his Dipper Chase conqueror.
- After a seven-length defeat by Lostintranslation in the Dipper, Tom George has confirmed that Black Op will be going back over hurdles for the remainder of the season. Currently 20/1 for the Stayers Hurdle, that price will shorten dramatically if he was to win the Cleeve Hurdle back at Prestbury Park later this month
- Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Torpillo made it two wins from two in Britain with a facile twenty-two length success at Sandown on Saturday. He jumped well and drew effortlessly clear, never looking in danger. You’d perhaps like to have seen him face a stronger field, but he’s now 16/1 for Friday’s opener in very familiar colours.
This Week’s Racing
The racing settles down a bit this week, with the highlight of this weekends action coming from Warwick who hosts the Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle. A few promising types hold entries, namely Nicky Henderson’s Birchdale, with Kempton also hosting their Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle.
Cheltenham Clues 31st December
Cheltenham Clues 17th December
Cheltenham Clues 10th December
Cheltenham Clues 3rd December
Cheltenham Clues 26th November
Cheltenham Clues 19th November
Cheltenham Clues 12th November
Cheltenham Clues 5th November
Cheltenham Clues 29th October
Cheltenham Clues 22nd October
Cheltenham Clues 15th October