The atmosphere at Cheltenham during the first meeting of the season is always special and that was the case again over the weekend as the great and good of the National Hunt game descended on Prestbury Park for the first time since April.
The Showcase Meeting at Cheltenham forms the majority of our weekly eye catchers article today but there has been plenty to take note of elsewhere with some excellent displays on both sides of the Irish Sea
Impressive Displays Light Up Cheltenham
Racing returned to Cheltenham on Friday and Saturday and there were a number of nice performances to take note of over the two days.
Paul Nicholls continued his remarkable form with the first two winners of the meeting on Friday with el Bandit and Marracudja claiming the novice hurdle and novice chases respectively. El Bandit claimed the Neptune race over 2m5f to continue his sharp rise with a 5th win on the bounce and he now looks like a serious prospect ahead of a chasing career this winter.
Marracudja impressed once again with another brave front running display and a good round of jumping to win the 2m novice chase and on good ground he is a very nice type. Bet Victor cut the horse into 33/1, from 40/1, for the Arkle as a result of this win and that looks a fair price at this stage.
Henry De Bromhead had a 1-2 in the 2m novices chase on Friday with Heron Heights coming out on top and although he is unlikely to have the class for an RSA Chase, we can expect him to b a player in one of the handicaps come March.
The Maiden Hurdle looked a very good race on paper and it will be interesting to follow the fortunes of Thomas Campbell who won it with a little bit in hand for Nicky Henderson. The Kelso bumper winner travelled and jumped well on his hurdling debut and with much more to come from this horse, quotes of 33/1 for the Supreme and the Neptune look appealing.
The action continued at Cheltenham on Saturday and it was a day that belonged to Neil Mulholland as he picked up two big winners. The first of them came when Fox Norton galloped all over the field to win the Randox Health Handicap Chase on his seasonal debut and the Arkle 3rd was installed as a 33/1 shot for the Champion Chase by Bet Victor as a result of this taking performance.
The good form continued for the Mulholland yard later on as Shantou Village won his 2nd start of fences in fairly decent fashion. Aside from one bad blunder, Shantou Village was too good for the field to win the 2m3f novice chase and he has all future options open with quotes for the JLT (20/1), the RSA Chase (25/1) and the National Hunt Chase (33/1) forthcoming after this latest win.
Fox Norton could now head to the Shloer Chase back at Cheltenham whilst Shantou Village might have one more run before a mid winter break.
Sceau Royal was a decent juvenile for Alan King last term and he looked even better on Saturday as he won the Masterson Holdings Hurdle in very taking fashion. Clearly benefiting from a good summer, the 4YO pulled clear of some nice horses and quotes of 33/1 for the Champion Hurdle with bet365 are about right at this early stage.
Identity Thief And Disko Impress On Chase Debuts
The action is also ramping up a notch on the other side of the Irish sea with two very good hurdlers making their debuts over fences at Punchestown
Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner Identity Thief was first up as he won the Beginners Chase over 2m for Henry De Bromhead and it was hard to find fault in his performance. He put in a solid round of jumping before beating an average field with the minimum of fuss and he is sure to be better over fences than he was over hurdles.
The Arkle is the clear aim for the Gigginstown owned horse and after this pleasing debut he was cut from 14/1, into 10/1, by bet365 for that Festival contest.
Identity Thief impressed on chasing debut and social media was awash with praise afterwards;
Disko has a little more to prove after a disappointing campaign last time but he remains a huge talent for Noel Meade and maybe he can realise his potential over fences. He looked a natural as he won the 2m4f Beginners Chase and Bet Victor were happy to cut him from 25/1, into 20/1, for the JLT Novices Chase after this win and he remains one to watch.
Away from the main cards this week we saw a very good winner down at Fontwell on Wednesday as the Jp McManus owned Movewiththetimes claimed the novices hurdle. Trained by Paul Nicholls, the 5YO jumped the last like a really good horse before stretching away and there is a feeling that this could be a very nice horse indeed.
Nicholls said after the race that he would love some softer ground and quotes of 33/1 for the Supreme and 25/1 for the Neptune were forthcoming in the minutes after this impressive seasonal debut.