The weather may have put paid to Ascot’s stellar card and its Clarence House Chase highlight this past weekend but that only meant some of this year’s Festival lively longshots received even more attention.
Instead of seeing Un De Sceaux hack up in Berkshire (probably), a host of other horses came to the fore at Haydock, Navan and Leopardstown.
Will the contenders featured in this round-up be fighting it out for Festival place money or can they go on to take even bigger prizes?
We’re starting the final circuit on the Road to Cheltenham and here are the latest storylines…
Neon Wolf stakes his Neptune claims
Putting together Politologue and Neon Wolf in a double seemed like a no-brainer to this writer but in the end the bookies dodged my bullet as only the latter went on to claim victory.
And in doing so the unbeaten rising star put himself into contention for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.
We’ve put him down as a 10/1 chance for the 2m5f contest following an impressive display of speed and stamina.
As part of the Racing Post’s Monday Jury, trainer Ted Walsh said: “Neon Wolf was very impressive and I’d imagine there’s many an Irish owner and trainer wondering how they let him slip out of the country.”
Bristol De Mai thrusts himself into Gold Cup reckoning
There was a lot to like about the performance of Bristol De Mai as he landed the Peter Marsh Chase on Saturday.
Colin Tizzard’s Alary was the talking horse in the build-up to the 3m chase at Haydock but it was Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge who outjumped and outstayed his rivals to score by a handsome 22 length margin.
If we’re to assume that this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup is Thistlecrack’s to lose then an each-way punt at 16/1 (cut from 20/1) about BDM filling a place could be good value.
However, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the Haydock winner may not find conditions as favourable at Prestbury Park, so he’s one to consider nearer the time.
The New One has options and both look attractive
He had to summon every ounce of energy to get up and see off the very game Clyne but in the end The New One was once again the toast of Merseyside.
In securing a third straight Champion Hurdle Trial victory the extremely likeable nine-year-old continued to highlight his Cheltenham credentials. But will it be a fourth crack at the Champion Hurdle or a step-up in trip for the Stayers’ Hurdle for the son of King’s Theatre?
Speaking to ITV Racing in the aftermath, winning jockey Sam Twiston-Davies appeared to give his preference for the Stayers’ Hurdle. Although, he did also admit that it was a decision only daddy Nigel could make.
Much will depend on the targets Willie Mullins sets for Faugheen and Annie Power but in the meantime it’s a fascinating conundrum for TNO’s connections.
We go 16/1 (from 20/1) about The New One’s chances over two miles while 20/1 (unchanged) is still on offer for the longer trip.
Meanwhile, Jezki showed no signs of ring-rust when making a winning return at Navan after 632 days off the track.
Jessica Harrington’s charge is now 8/1 (from 14s) for the Stayers’ Hurdle while it’s 20/1 for the 2014 Champion Hurdle winner to regain his title.
The lucrative Gordon Elliott-Jack Kennedy partnership delivered another big prize at the weekend with A Toi Phil just getting his head in front to take the Leopardstown Handicap Chase.
However, he was quick to temper any enthusiasm for a Festival tilt.
Elliott said: “We have Cheltenham as an option, but he’s still a novice so we might miss that and keep him at home. There is plenty of good prize-money at home.
On the same card, Ice Cold Soul sprung a surprise to take the Coral Hurdle at odds of 20/1 and Ice Cold Soul for the Coral Cup or County Hurdle with the Coral Cup and County Hurdle both viable options for the 20/1 winner.
And Yorkhill has shortened up again for the JLT Novices’ Chase with the Graham Wylie-owned seven-year-old now just 6/4 (from 7/4) after justifying skinny odds to get the job done at Leopardstown.
It wasn’t a fluent jumping performance but he showed enough for our traders to see fit to trim his price further.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing