If you weren’t already aware that the National Hunt season was in full flow, you most certainly will be after last weekend’s exertions.
The Charlie Hall Chase saw a number of big guns out for their seasonal reappearances at Wetherby, including the likes of Grand National winner Many Clouds and Gold Cup fourth Holywell.
But instead, the spoils went to popular chaser Cue Card, as he recorded a first victory since his success in the Betfair Chase in November 2013.
After being treated for a trapped epiglottis, the nine-year-old showed plenty of enthusiasm as he travelled with verve and jumped with proficiency to see off his seven rivals.
The result meant that wholesale changes to the antepost markets were in store.
Colin Tizzard’s gelding was added as a shot 10/1 to go one better than his second in the King George VI Chase of 2013 and bag the Boxing Day showpiece.
Longer term changes saw the son of Kings Theatre added to the Cheltenham Gold Cup market as a 20/1 shot, but the biggest move came in the Ryanair Chase betting.
A winner of the race in 2013, he was halved in price from 20/1 to 10/1.
Second place on Saturday went to Dynaste who took the Cheltenham contest in 2014. He was added to Ladbrokes’ betting for a second triumph at the Festival as a 14/1 chance.
Over in Ireland the highest rated chaser in training Don Cossack justified his 175-rating in the JNwine.com Champion Chase, running out an unextended eight length winner at Down Royal.
While it was a facile success, the fact he had 15lbs in hand on his nearest rival on ratings suggested he did it how he should have done.
Also scoring on the card in County Down was Paul Nicholls’ Ptit Zig.
After going five races unbeaten over fences at the start of last season, he fell apart in his final two races last term, coming down in the Ascot Chase before being well beaten by Vautour in the JLT Novices’ Chase.
He put that right in the Powers Irish Whiskey Chase however, justifying market support trouncing Aintree Grade 1 winner Clarcam by nine lengths.
He has some way to challenge the principals for the King George but was cut from 25/1 to 20/1 for the Kempton race.
One of those principals was stable-mate Saphir Du Rheu, who made his seasonal reappearance at Carlisle on Sunday.
The grey is seen as a real Gold Cup type by both his handler and a large number of racing fans, he had either won or parted company with his jockey on his four previous chase starts.
However, his jumping was much more assured in the 2m4f Listed contest, giving 4lbs and a seven length beating to the very useful and progressive The Young Master at the Cumbria track.
Such was the visual impression that he made the Hennessy Gold Cup favourite was cut for the Newbury handicap from 7/1 into 5/1.
He looks an exciting contender, but whether he can continue to produce a clean round of jumping when tested against the big guns remains a pertinent question.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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