Racing Round-up: L’Ami surges into Supreme Novices’ Hurdle reckoning

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While the quality of racing may have been on the downgrade in comparison to the jam-packed Christmas period, the last couple of days have seen moves aplenty in the Cheltenham Festival markets, as well as an interesting addition to the Grand National betting.

It was Tolworth Hurdle day at Sandown on Saturday, and despite the small field which saw 100/1 shot Thelordbewithyou pick up over £4,000 in prize money after the final flight fall of Shelford, leaving him alone in third, the winner looks something special.

As if owner Simon Munir needed another hot prospect in the novice hurdling ranks, but in L’Ami Serge he now has the 5/1 second-favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The five-year-old had no trouble in dispatching the well thought of Jolly’s Cracked It, seeing off Harry Fry’s charge by 14l.

One of a number of French imports for connections, he is now unbeaten in three, very useful contests on these shores, and leads a crack team of young chances over timber for the owner.

Finally a UK Mares Hurdle winner?

The OLBG Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival has, for the last six years, been at the mercy of the mighty Quevega.

But with Willie Mullins’ charge now enjoying her retirement, we could be in for a home-trained winner of the 2m4f contest.

While the County Carlow trainer’s current race favourite Annie Power (Evens) is yet to make an appearance this season, John Quinn’s Aurore D’Estruval has been shining.

In beating some progressive types in a Listed race at Sandown at the weekend she took her season record to two from three, and has since been cut into 4/1 from 6/1 for the Mares race in March.

Favourite backers fingers burned

When you get a well hyped Gigginstown Stud-owned, Willie Mullins-trained 4/6 favourite under highly rated young jockey Bryan Cooper, what could go wrong?

Well for Tell Us More backers, it was a frustrating Sunday at Naas as 33/1 supposed stable third-string McKinley took the spoils.

Locked in a neck-and-neck battle the hotpot could not cope with the sheer doggedness of his stable-mate and went down by ¾l.

In reaction, Ladbrokes pushed out the original Neptune Novices’ Hurdle favourite from 6/1 out to 10/1, and was altered in the betting of the Supreme market to become a 20/1 shot when Mullins hinted a drop in trip could be on the cards.

Hales hoping for more National success

When Neptune Collonges carried the yellow silks of John Hales to victory in the 2012 Grand National, it was a poignant moment for the owner, after losing his dual King George winner One Man at the track, but now he could be back for another crack with Unioniste.

Also trained by Paul Nicholls, the seven-year-old powered clear up the Sandown hill to land the 3m1/2f contest.

His trainer spoke of how he always thought of him as a National type, and bookmakers agreed, installing the grey as a 20/1 for the Aintree showpiece.

And while he may be relatively young to be winning the race, he is by no means inexperienced, having won the December Gold Cup as a four-year-old, so could be one to buck the trends come April.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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