Another thrilling weekend of jumps racing is now in the books across the UK and Ireland and there is plenty to look back on this Monday. The Christmas period is fast approaching which means we are right in the thick of the jumps season and the star horses are continuing to make their presence felt.
This week we take a look back at Tingle Creek day at Sandown and a thrilling Sunday at Fairyhouse which saw three Grade 1 contests....
Sceaux Too Good For Tingle Field
The Tingle Creek chase is one of the most important and historic races on the calendar each season and it once again proved to be a stellar contest on Saturday as some of the best 2m chasers in training locked horns.
The Willie Mullins trained Un De Sceaux started favourite and he justified that support with an excellent performance as he held off Sire De Grugy in a terrific finish. Un De Sceaux made one or two jumping mistakes, as he tends to do when under pressure, but he showed plenty of battling qualities to hold off an experienced challenger and the future remains bright for the 8YO.
Un De Sceaux could yet step up in trip but this was a classy performance from the horse and 10/1, from 14/1, with Bet Victor for the Queen Mother Champion Chase looks about fair at this stage.
Sire De Grugy ran a cracker and remains a player in the division, whilst punters should give Ar Mad another chance after he set off like a scolded cat with Gary Moore even suggesting he could go to the King George on Boxing Day.
Jamie Moore was delighted with Sire De Grugy on Saturday as he took to social media afer the race;
Elsewhere on Tingle Creek day, it was Altior who stole the show as the Supreme winner made his 2nd start over fences. The Nicky Henderson horse jumped well in general before pulling well clear of a decent field to win the Henry VIII Novices Chase and he really could still be anything over fences.
The bookmakers were certainly impressed with Altior with bet365 cutting him into 7/4f, from 2/1, to win the Arkle Chase in March as a result of this taking success and at this stage you have to imagine he will be tough to beat in March.
Sweet Apple's The Fairyhouse Star
Attention turned to Ireland on Sunday as Fairyhouse hosted one of their very bets fixtures of the jumps season with three Grade 1 races on the card.
Willie Mullins was in the winner's enclosure as Airlie Beach claimed the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle in very nice style for the Supreme Racing Club. Given a fine front running ride by Ruby Walsh, the rest of the field failed to land a blow on the mare and she seems to be getting better with every run.
Peace News should be given another chance after falling when coming with a challenge but Airlie Beach was a more than worthy winner and she looks an ideal type for the Mares Novices Hurdle in March, for which she is now 5/1F, from 8/1, for with bet 365.
The 2m4f Hatton's Grade Hurdle was the next race on the card and it didn't disappoint as we saw two more mares fight it out in a thrilling finish.
In the end it was Apple's Jade who continued her upward curve this term with an excellent win as she held off Vroum Vroum Mag by the narrowest of margins.
Apple's Jade was ridden close to the pace and showed her fitness to beat a held up Vroum Vroum Mag and with the former also getting a 4lb weight allowance it is fair to say that both emerged with credit from the contest. Apple's Jade is now 9/4, from 5/2, for the Mares Hurdle in March whilst Vroum Vroum has all manner of options ahead of her despite tasting defeat for the first time.
Apple's Jade made history when winning the Hatton's Grace Hurdle on Sunday;
Moving on to the Drinmore Novices' Chase and there was a minor shock in that one as Coney Island won with something in hand for Ed Harty and Mark Walsh.
Diamond King, A Toi Phil and Alpha Des Obeaux all disappointed to varying degrees to put a question mark over this form but Coney Island couldn't have done any more as he won a Grade 1 on just his 2nd start over the jumps.
Stamina won't be an issue for Coney Island going forward which means that he has been cut from 25/1, into 10/1, for the RSA Chase with Bet Victor but you would think there would be one or two better than him come the Cheltenham Festival.
Away from the Grade 1 races on Sunday, we also saw the juveniles in action at Grade 3 level and it was Landofhopeandglory who maintained his unbeaten record over hurdles. The former flat horse was made to work for his win on Sunday but he did it well enough to make it 3-3 this winter and his Triumph price is now as short as 6/1F, from 10/1, for the triumph Hurdle in March.
Other Eye Catchers This Week
There was plenty of action away from the two big meetings over the weekend and a number of them have been scibbled won into the notebook.
One of those came up at Huntingdon on Sunday as Josses Hill won the Peterborough Chase over 2m4f. Always a classy animal, Josses Hill now appears to have his jumping sorted and that makes him a major player when it comes to the intermediate trips.
Good enough to chase Vautour home in a Supreme, Josses Hill swatted away some good horses at Huntingdon and 14/1 for the Ryanair Chase with Coral could be a tempting punt at this stage.
We head up to Kelso for our next eye-catcher with Aux Ptits Soins going under the radar and claiming his first win over fences on Sunday afternoon.
Having disappointed first time out, Aux Ptits Soins was stepped up to 3m and it appeared to pair off as he produced a much improved display. It clearly wasn't a strong field but the John Hales owned horses jumped well and won with more in hand than the winning distance suggests and he remains a live RSA Chase type at a rather juicy looking 25/1 with Paddy Power.
We should also mention the Becher Chase which was some spectacle up at Aintree as the National fences were used for the first time this winter. The David Pipe trained Vieux Lion Rouge got up on the line to deny Highland Lodge and the former has been halved in price for the Grand National from 50/1, into 25/1, with Sky Bet.