From Trials Day at Cheltenham to an intriguing afternoon at Naas, the weekend produced another fascinating set of pointers ahead of the Festival in six weeks’ time.
Paisley Park is the new favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle, while Nicky Henderson has a dilemma on his hands in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Add in Frodon’s Gold Cup move and a sound return for Champagne Classic, and it’s been another busy weekend in the Road to Cheltenham.
Paisley Park – Stayers’ Hurdle – 9/4
Our tips column got it right again on Saturday, as Paisley Park breezed to a 12l win in the Cleeve Hurdle. Now there can be no doubting the seven-year-old’s Festival credentials.
Trainer Emma Lavelle is certainly optimistic after openly admitting she only fears 2018 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Penhill ahead of the 2019 renewal.
Our traders certainly fear her – with five-timer seeking Paisley Park now just 9/4 to succeed in the race famously won four times in a row by Big Buck’s.
Espoir D’Allen – Champion Hurdle – 14/1 from 20/1
Keen on taking on 11/8 favourite and hat-trick seeking Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle? Then you’ll be keeping close tabs on the impressive Irish-trained raider Espoir D’Allen.
Gavin Cromwell’s charge is now into 14/1 for the race having started the season as a general 50/1 shot. Three successive wins at Naas, Limerick and then Naas again changed all that.
His weekend success in the Limestone Lad Hurdle was particularly taking. The five-year-old conceded weight all round but still managed to come out on top, even with a hiccup at the last.
An engagement in the Champion Hurdle isn’t guaranteed, however, with Espoir D’Allen and Buveur D’Air both owned by JP McManus.
Frodon – Gold Cup – 16/1
It’s hold our hands up time. We love Frodon and Bryony Frost, but we didn’t think the pair had what it takes to come on top over 3m at Cheltenham over the weekend. We were wrong.
The effervescent duo made all once again to see off Elegant Escape and claim a second win in a row and a fourth win in total round Prestbury Park. Now the Gold Cup is being bandied about.
And with a bit of a windy year for the blue ribbon event – save a taking reappearance by Presenting Percy last week – could they be worth a go?
Our traders go 16/1 about the Gloucestershire specialist claiming an historic Gold Cup win.
Birchdale – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – 10/1 from 14/1
Maybe he opts to stick both of them in. But the latter’s 18l win in only his second start for the trainer in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle at the weekend will give him food for thought.
14/1 chance Brewin’Upastorm also remains a serious contender for Olly Murphy. Only a fall at the last denied the raider when in contention alongside Birchdale on Saturday.
Champagne Classic – RSA Chase – 20/1
Whisper it quietly but Champagne Classic could turn out to be a very enticing each-way shout for the RSA Chase.
Gordon Elliott’s eight-year-old returned from 641 days off the track to hit the frame at Naas at the weekend when third behind Ballyward and Chris’s Dream.
You can only see the Stowaway gelding improving for that run, with the Flogas Novices Chase his next potential engagement at the Dublin Racing Festival.
If he comes through in decent nick, then the 20/1 about him for the RSA could disappear.
Click here for all our 2019 Cheltenham Festival odds.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication