Toast is burnt but plenty more to come after top weekend of racing

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So close, yet so far. Almost a year to the day since he bagged a Class 5 Novices’ race at Wolverhampton on a cold November night, Toast of New York was just inches away from taking the $2.5m+ top prize in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Nevertheless, Jamie Osbourne’s three-year-old did the Brits proud on what was a disappointing weekend for the UK and Irish contingent at Santa Anita.

His defeat to Bayern by a nose on his first experience of a dirt track, proved that he is at home on the surface and meant his handler was keen to confirm that he will go for the Dubai World Cup in March at Meydan which has recently changed from its original tapeta surface.

Should Toast of New York line up, he will be strongly fancied to make winning return at the scene of his biggest win when he trounced the field in the UAE Derby back in March.

While the flat season wound down, the jumpers were just warming up.

And with three of this year’s first four home in the Gold Cup, as well as the 2015 favourite in action, it was a bumper weekend in the National Hunt world.

On His Own was disappointing in the JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal, a well beaten sixth, seeing his odds for redeeming his second place at the Festival pushed out from 16/1 to 33/1.

Stablemate Boston Bob fared a little better, but was still 29l back in third and was pushed out from 16/1 to 25/1.

But announcing himself to the Gold Cup market in some style was Road To Riches. The mount of Paul Carberry led from start to finish at the Northern Irish track, running out an 11l winner. The Galway Plate victor was installed in the market as a 20/1 shot.

Back in England, Silviniaco Conti was well fancied to get his season off to winning one at Wetherby. Well backed into Evens, Paul Nicholls’ charge travelled strongly in the Charlie Hall Chase, before fading late on into fifth.

He looked in desperate need of the run, and will surely come on a bundle, but was edged out from 8/1 to 14/1 for Cheltenham glory in March, as well as easing into 8/1 second favourite (from 4/1) for the King George in December.

The victor in Yorkshire, Menorah, showed plenty of improvement on recent form, claiming his first Group win since December 2012, and could be a reformed character this season.

On Sunday, antepost favourite Holywell ran encouragingly for some way at Carlisle, but was beaten into third behind Many Clouds and Eduard. He remains an 8/1 shot to step up to the top table, but will need to improve on that effort to have a say in things in four months’ time.

So with Bob’s Worth set for a spin over hurdles at the end of the month and Smad Place being lined up for a crack at the Hennessy, we could see most of the other big guns back out within a few weeks in what promises to be a top season of jumps action.

All odds and markets correct as of the day of publishing

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.