With the Cheltenham Festival now just over five weeks away the excitement is building ahead of the four-day event at Prestbury Park.
And with that, opinions are hardening and pre-Festival money is being putting down as we edge ever closer to the spring spectacular.
That’s certainly the case with regards to Queen Mother Champion Chase jolly, Douvan.
We didn’t learn an awful lot from his six-and-a-half length romp in Sunday’s Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown.
But we’ve cut Willie Mullins’ star from 1/2 to 1/3 for this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, such was the manner of this latest victory.
Douvan put on another dazzling display to make it 14 out of 14 since arriving in Ireland.
However, the real game changer of the past weekend was to be found on British shores…
Top Notch bolts up as main rival falters
Like the unwanted academy footballer who’s told he’s too small to play at the highest level, Top Notch has had to deal with a number of jibes about his physique.
But when coming home five lengths clear to land the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown we saw a potential future giant emerge.
OK, that might be stretching it somewhat but Nicky Henderson’s charge was mightily impressive and we’ve acted accordingly by slashing is JLT Novices’ Chase odds from 16/1 to 6/1.
Much to this writer’s punting chagrin, Clan Des Obeaux was mightily disappointing when trailing home last of five, a performance that’s seen Paul Nicholls rule him out of a Cheltenham tilt.
Buveur D’Air stakes his Champion Hurdle claims
ITV Racing’s Mick Fitzgerald perhaps put it best when describing what we can take from the Contenders Hurdle victory of 1/4 shot Buveur D’Air.
“He’s alive and he can jump hurdles”, was the gist of Fitzgerald’s summary. And given the way the JP McManus-owned charge eased past Rayvin Black to score those words seemed entirely appropriate.
Let’s be frank. Henderson’s smart six-year-old didn’t beat horses at the peak of their powers.
But he did get the job done well enough to justify now being a credible 4/1 joint-second favourite for the Champion Hurdle.
Frodon notches fifth win of the campaign
Frodon is an extremely likeable type and he continued his progression when racking up his fifth win of the campaign at Musselburgh.
The Paul Nicholls-trained five-year-old fully justified odds-on favouritism to win by nine lengths north of the border and we’ve offering 16/1 about his JLT Novices’ Chase chances.
On form, we know he can be a Festival contender, and it’ll be interesting to see how much more the Ditcheat team can coax out of this French-bred gem.
Elsewhere, Lough Derg Spirit turned over race favourite Peter the Mayo Man to see his Supreme Novices’ Hurdle odds trimmed from 25/1 to 16/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing