While it might not have been the result he had expected Nicky Henderson would have been more than happy with the performance of his pair of runners in Saturday’s Betfred Hurdle.
Returning after a break of 970 days Arkle winner Simonsig was the more fancied of the two Seven Barrows competitors in the 2m4f contest.
But instead the glory went to 2013 Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth who put aside his troubles of the past 12 months to grind out victory in excellent fashion.
His grey stablemate travelled with plenty of zest and enthusiasm, too much in fact, as his early exerts told in the latter stages when he found little when coming under pressure despite looming up menacingly alongside the eventual winner.
Henderson though, would have been delighted with both performances, suggesting a drop back in trip was on the cards for Simonsig with the Tingle Creek a possible next outing over fences.
For Bobs Worth the Hennessy Gold Cup, a race he won in 2012 is next up.
Set to carry 15lbs less than when triumphing the 10-year-old was cut from 20/1 into 14/1 following Saturday’s Aintree success, before even more support forced Ladbrokes to go 12/1 on him repeating the feat.
To claim Newbury’s showpiece event though he will have to see off current Gold Cup holder Coneygree, who returned to action in sublime style on Sunday.
Mark Bradstock’s charge took on just two opponents in an intermediate chase at Sandown and was 18lbs clear at the weights, but it was hard not to be impressed with the manner of his victory.
Like last year, his jumping was assured, barely touching a twig of the Esher track’s tricky fences, to come home unchallenged on the bridle by 25 lengths.
And while he will be saddled with top-weight in the Hennessy, Ladbrokes moved him into joint-favouritism at 5/1 (from 7/1).
Back in third at Sandown was RSA Chase runner-up Southfield Theatre. And while many of Paul Nicholls’ horses are needing the run, the distance of 44 lengths between him and the winner saw his odds for success at Newbury’s showpiece pushed out from 16/1 to 25/1.
Novices get off the mark in Ireland
Across the Irish Sea two exciting national hunt prospects were enhancing their claims for Festival success.
Firstly Disko, runner-up in Punchestown’s Grade 1 bumper in April, got off the mark over timber in astounding fashion.
Noel Meade’s grey, running in a hood for the first time, justified solid market support, routing a field of 14 by 29 lengths at Naas.
The combination of a step up in trip and the addition of head gear seemed to work a treat as he sauntered to success.
The question now is what trip will he be campaigned over as the season goes on?
Going over the larger obstacles for the first time the following day was Edward O’Grady’s Kitten Rock.
Last seen trailing Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle, the five-year-old has been well touted as an Arkle prospect before his chasing debut.
And he got his campaign off to the best possible start under Barry Geraghty, jumping nicely and putting the race at Navan to bed in nice style.
While the distance of 1¼ lengths doesn’t scream dominance, the JP McManus-owned gelding was cut from 16/1 to 14/1 for the Arkle in March.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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