The weather has turned cold finally in the UK and Ireland but that hasn't stopped the racing action from coming thick and fast once again over the past seven days. As always on a Monday, we are taking a look back at the past week of sport picking out all of the important eye catchers and market movers in the latest in our Road To Cheltenham series.
Card Right On Cue At Haydock
The feature race of the weekend came at Haydock on Saturday afternoon as the Betfair Chase took centre stage and although we only had a small field of five runners, it did not disappoint. The Colin Tizzard trained Cue Card simply destroyed the field to win the race on the bridle and the dual Festival winner looks back to his best once again.
Cue Card was way below his best last season but the 2013 Ryanair Chase winner is now a real player once again following this performance. Silviniaco Conti set a very strong gallop through the early stages but when push came to shove it was Cue Card who had the engine and speed to pull well clear of a very good horse.
Paddy Brennan has sparked up a great relationship with the horse and on this form, the sky could be the limit for the two of them. He was slashed into 5/1 (from 16s) with Paddy Power for the King George on Boxing Day, while a Gold Cup run could also be on the cards, for which he is now a best price 14/1 for with Betfair which looks more than fair.
Cue Card certainly impressed on Saturday and the ratings reflect that as Matt Chapman highlighted on social media after his Betfair Chase win.
Elsewhere on the Haydock card we saw another fine performance from Irving to win the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle. He was made to work hard to beat Top Notch on Saturday but did come out on top and he could now go to the Fighting Fifth Hurdle next weekend. It remains to be seen if he is good enough for a Champion Hurdle run but he is certainly in good form right now while top Notch remains interesting and should strip fitter for the run.
Gold Cup Favourite Vautour Back With a Win At Ascot
There was plenty of attention on Ascot on Saturday as Gold Cup favourite and two time Cheltenham Festival winner Vautour made his first start of the season in the 1965 Chase. The Willie Mullins trained horse was sensational when winning the JLT Novices Chase and although he looked way below that level this weekend, he did claim the win.
Vautour jumped well for the most part before holding off Ptit Zig, who himself is a very good horse, and there is no doubt he will come on for the run. Vautour looked a little big which should be take into account and both of these horses could now go to the King George on Boxing Day. Vautour is a best price 3/1 for the King George, while his Gold Cup price was pushed out to 5/1, from 9/2, by Bet365 over the weekend.
Ruby Walsh was happy with Vautour as he explained to CH4 after their win in the 1965 Chase at Ascot.
It was a great day for Harry Fry at Ascot as he picked up a treble with promising young hurdler American and Rock On Ruby the star names for the Dorset handler. American is a staying chaser in the making but could be a decent hurdler this term over a trip after he won well on saturday, while the legendary Rock On Ruby battled to success in the Coral Hurdle and he could now go to the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham with every chance.
Willie Mullins Dominates Irish Eye Catchers This Week, Obviously.
The stars of the Willie Mullins yard are continuing to come out and this past week has been a very busy one for the Champion Trainer. A number of his excellent horses have been on course and as always, the majority of them have caught the eye with bigger targets in mind for later in the season.
Supreme Novices Hurdle winner Douvan made his Chasing debt at Navan on Sunday and he was a very easy winner against an average field. He did make one mistake at the last but he was foot perfect elsewhere under Ruby Walsh with Douvan cut into 7/1 (from 2s) with William Hill for the Arkle Chase after this win.
Augusta Kate was the other winner for Mullins on the Navan card as she won the Mares Flat race as she liked and this is a horse that could be anything which meant that Paddy Power were happy to cut her from 20/1, into 14/1, for the new Mares Novices Hurdle at the Festival. Interesting horse.
Mullins unleashed two more potential stars over hurdles at Gowran Park on Saturday with both American Tom and Stone Hard winning their first starts over obstacles in decent fashion. Stone Hard won the Maiden Hurdle over 2m despite clearly wanting further, while American Tom was cut into 14/1, from 20/1, for the Neptune after his win in the 2m Novice Hurdle with both horses very talented.
The other Willie Mullins horse we must mention from this past week is Sir Des Champs who made his long awaited return at Thurles on Thursday. Sir Des Champs is a dual Cheltenham Festival winner and was good enough to finish 2nd in the Gold Cup in 2013 but hadn't been seen since finishing 4th in the 2013 Lexus Chase after picking up an injury.
Sir Des Champs jumped well and quickened up nicely at Thurles to win the 2m6f Listed Chase and although this was only against average company, it was a pleasing return after such a long lay off from the Gigginstown horse and as such he is now a general 25/1 shot the Gold Cup in March.
Other Eye Catchers This Week
Among the other horses for the notebook to take to the track this past week are Yanworth and Bristol De Mai, who both won at Warwick last Wednesday. Yanworth made it two from two in fine fashion at the track and was cut from 20/1, into 16/1 by Bet Victor for the Supreme Novices Hurdle, while Bristol De Mai jumped like a stag to get off the mark over fences for Nigel Twiston-Davies on the same card, and he was cut into 20/1 for the Arkle as a result of this impressive display.
The Noel Meade trained Monksland made his chasing debut at Gowran Park on Saturday and he is another horse that has plenty of talent on a going day. The 8-year-old jumped well to win the 2m4f Beginners Chase in very testing ground and he could well be an each-way player in something like the RSA Chase in the spring if he can stay fit. Paddy Power installed him as a 25/1 shot the RSA Chase after this debut win and he could be one to watch.
Betfair Chase win sees Cue Card slashed in the betting for the King George and the Gold Cup
Vautour out to 5/1, from 9/2, for the Gold Cup despite winning 1965 Chase at Ascot on seasonal debut
Supreme Novices Hurdle winner Douvan wins his chasing debut at Navan on Sunday
Irving could run again in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle this weekend after winning the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle at Haydock.