With top-class action from Sandown, Aintree, Leopardstown and Huntingdon this weekend there was no shortage of talking points.
The triumph of Dodging Bullets and the sad demise of Oscar Whisky in the Tingle Creek at Sandown may provided the biggest news of the weekend, but we take a look at another trio of interesting events that could hold a major bearing on a certain four-day meeting next March.
Still Lord of the manor?
Nine months ago Lord Windermere was carrying jockey Davy Russell to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, so to some it may have been a surprise to see him as high as 10/1 fourth-favourite on his seasonal reappearance on Sunday.
But in truth, the 2m4f test of the John Durkan at Punchestown was always likely to be plenty sharp enough for him.
Nevertheless, Jim Culloty’s charge ran a good race, coming home 5l third behind Don Cossack in a messy race, with two early fallers causing interference all round.
But it’s onwards and upwards for the current king of the staying chasers, with the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas next on his agenda, en route to the Festival where he will attempt to defend his crown.
Wishfull Thinking of Ryanair glory?
Philip Hobbs’ Wishfull Thinking has always come up a bit short when it comes to competing at the highest level (0-7 in Grade 1 chases), but he certainly knows how to be competitive at a lower grade.
Having found a bare 2m a bit short in recent years, a step up to 2m4f seems to have eked out a little bit more from Diana Whateley’s horse.
Sent off the 13/2 fourth-favourite of six, the 11-year-old took up the early running in the Peterborough Chase , and put in an accomplished round of jumping to take the Grade 2 spoils from 7/4 favourite Eduard.
After that victory he was cut in to 14/1 (from 20/1) to end his duck at the top level in March in the Ryanair Chase, his likely Cheltenham target, should he run at the Festival.
Nicholls crowned again in the Henry VIII
While the Tingle Creek was the feature on the card at Sandown on Saturday, the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase more than equalled it in intrigued.
With the four runners closely matched on previous form, it was always going to be a tight race, and so it turned out to be.
Jumping the last it looked between 4/5f Irish Saint, and 5/1 shot Dunraven Storm, but neither were prepared for the turn of foot shown by the enigma that is Vibrato Valtat.
Known to be tricky to win with, the grey showed a willing attitude under Noel Fehily to land the race for Paul Nicholls, taking his tally in the race to three wins in the last four years.
For the winner though, while the Irish challenge is likely to be too much, the 14/1 (from 20/1) for the Arkle in March may prove a tempting proposition for some.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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