Cheltenham took centre stage this weekend, and we were certainly left licking our lips for a return to the track in March with a number of smart performances, both from familiar faces and new kids on the block.
But while the majority of the top class racing was at Prestbury Park, one Nicky Henderson inmate left a lasting impression on his British debut at Doncaster.
Here are our three big talking points from the weekend.
Champion Hurdle rematch well and truly on
Giving 8lbs to the improving Vaniteux was always going to be a real test of The New One’s mettle, and jumping the final flight, last year’s Champion Hurdle third looked to have a fight on his hands.
But as Sam Twiston-Davies mount approached that famous hill, his renowned gears kicked into action and the response was very impressive, the six-year-old accelerating with some ferocity to hand out a 4 ½l beating.
Jessica Harrington is unflustered though:
“Jezki is in great form, he’s super and I couldn’t be one bit happier. All he can do is beat the horses put in front of him and he keeps doing that,” she told the Racing Post.
The opening day of the Festival looks likely to play host to a cracker.
Henderson feeling Triumphant after Saturday exerts
Seven Barrows will have been firmly looking forward to the future after the stable displayed two very likely players in the Triumph Hurdle on Saturday.
The day started off well with second-favourite Hargam getting the better of Karezak, the pair a mile clear of the remainder at Cheltenham.
But the real talking point was happening further north on Town Moor.
Peace and Co, a once-race recruit from France, was sent off 10/11 favourite to deliver on his British debut, and he didn’t disappoint.
If anything, he probably could have won by further than the 19l victory he delivered over Starchitect, Daryl Jacob’s arms being nearly pulled out of their sockets by the strong travelling gelding.
Jumping the last, there was only one outcome, the three-year-old pulling clear easily and usurped his stablemate as second favourite for March’s race at 8/1.
But with a surge of market support continuing, he is now 9/2 favourite for the race.
Mixed meeting for Euro raiders in Hong Kong
Arc runner up Flintshire provided the only real ray of light for the European challengers at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Sent off 11/10f for the Hong Kong Vase, the Khalid Abdullah-owned colt was coaxed along by Maxime Guyon from a furlong out, and obliged a shade cosily over Wille Cazals in second.
That was the only victory for foreign raiders in the Group contests with Gordon Lord Byron putting in perhaps the most respectable performance, finishing fourth in the Hong Kong Sprint when sent off at 53/1.
Cirrus Des Aigles confirmed his well-being finishing a close-up fourth in the Cup, sent off at 14/1, the biggest price he has started since the same race four years ago.
Just the one big winner for the foreign interests then in a meeting that the home side are performing well in, in recent years.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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