Much like a lot of the past weekend’s racing the Road to Cheltenham can feel like a long, hard slog at times.
And right now we’re in the thick of it. With the Clarence House Chase, Betfair Hurdle, Game Spirit Chase and plenty of top class action from Ireland still to come, we’ve still got a lot to learn.
Clues were certainly plentiful at the likes of Kempton, Warwick, Punchestown and Fairyhouse last Saturday and Sunday.
Here’s our latest look at the big storylines…
It’s only fair that the big guy delivers for a lot of little guys
Any yard, big or small, will tell you what it means to have the ‘horse of a lifetime’.
And in the case of trainer Debra Hamer, she’s well aware just how special her prolific winner Tobefair is.
In notching a sixth straight victory at Warwick on Saturday the seven-year-old booked his passage to the Festival, or the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle to be exact.
This latest win ensured Hamer, her husband, two members of staff and 18 owners in the Down The Quay Club, will all get their big day out at Cheltenham.
It’s an incredible story made even more remarkable by the fact that this is a horse that was beaten over 295 lengths during his first six starts under Rules.
Standing at over 16.2 hands, the big guy is finally doing the business for his small but mighty connections.
We haven’t gone mad for the stars the stripes
Harry Fry knows his talented but fragile charge American needs a lot of TLC and that seems to have tempered our traders’ enthusiasm for his RSA Chase chances.
The son of Malinas showcased his jumping prowess in brilliant fashion at Warwick, a track that rewards fluency.
And in taking the 3m Listed contest by four-and-a-half-lengths he earned a quote of 25-1 for the Festival.
That price seemed to shock ITV Racing’s betting guru, Matt Chapman, who told viewers to bite our hands off for that kind of value.
Will we be left counting the cost of our opposition to this likeable sort?
Ball D’Arc for the Grand Annual
Over in Ireland, Gordon Elliott’s quest for the Irish trainer’s title continues to show no let-up. Once again he teamed-up with 17-year-old jockey sensation Jack Kennedy to take the big prize at Fairyhouse’s Sunday meeting.
Ball D’Arc was their latest obliging runner. He justified favouritism to score by an impressive nine-length margin in the €59,000.00 Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase over 2m1f.
Having reeled in the keen front-runner Ttebbob, the six-year-old eased past Pairofbrowneyes to notch a second chase win.
“It’s a nice pot to win,” Elliott said after the race.
“Jack gave him a peach of a ride. He was a bit unlucky at Leopardstown, although I’m still not sure he’d have won. The soft ground suited him today and he could get into a nice rhythm.
“I’m not sure where he will go next, but he could go for something like the Grand Annual. He’s still a novice over fences so that is an option as well.”
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing