We have seen the entries released this week for some of the major Cheltenham Festival races, but on the track there have been some notable displays with Josses Hill and Douvan just being a brace of names that have tasted victory over the last seven days. The five biggest stories over the last seven days are touched on here in our weekly round up.
Josses Drifts In Arkle Betting Despite Doncaster Win
Nicky Henderson's Josses Hill recorded his first victory over fences on Friday afternoon, as the red-hot 4/11 favourite fought off former Champion Bumper winner Cheltenian to win by two-and-a-quarter lengths at Doncaster, but the bookmakers were far from impressed and eased the Seven Barrows inmate in the Arkle Challenge Trophy betting. Stalking the leaders for most of the contest, the former Grade-winning hurdler was not always fluent over his fences and Barry Geraghty was made to cajole his mount into contention as they ventured into the home straight. However, the seven-year-old's class prevailed in the closing stages and he notched his first success over the larger obstacles, only to see his price eased to 12/1 for the Arkle, which is just eight weeks away.
Douvan Imperious In Punchestown Romp And Slashed For Supreme
Douvan enhanced his already lofty reputation on Saturday afternoon, as the Willie Mullins-trained star was a facile win of Punchestown's Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle and was then slashed to 5/2 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. The Co. Carlow inmate was already spearheading the betting for the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser, but the manner in which he dispatched his rivals with aplomb suggested he could be a new star off the Mullins production line and he's sure to be a popular selection amongst punters over the next few weeks. Ruby Walsh merely had to stay aboard as Douvan strolled to the front and under a motionless ride pulled clear to win easily to record one of the finest displays seen by a novice on the track to date.
Kelly Pilots Tea For Two To Lanzarote Demolition
Lizzie Kelly propelled into the limelight with victory on board Aubusson in the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock Park before Christmas, but she bagged her biggest success to date on Saturday, as she piloted Tea For Two to an emphatic 15-length success in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton Park. Nick Williams had previously landed two wins from his two career runners in the competitive handicap, and he recorded the hat-trick with the 9/2 joint-favourite, as under a patient ride tracking the leaders, Kelly eased her mount clear in the closing stages to demolish what looked a tough group of adversaries. Initially, connections touched on potentially lining up for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, but it's no expected that the novice will stay in that division and could well be a contender for either the Neptune or Albert Bartlett come March.
Vautour Primed For Irish Arkle Return
Vautour could look to get his season back on track at the end of this month, as last year's runaway Supreme winner could head to Leopardstown for the Irish Arkle Novice Chase. Having bagged a victory on his first chasing start, Willie Mullins' star was then trounced by Clarcam when sent off an odds-on favourite for the Racing Post Novice Chase and that pair could clash in this event. The star Irish raider was duly eased in the 2015 Arkle Challenge Trophy betting and will need to bounce back if he is to be touted as one of the leading two-milers and the Grade 1 that takes place on January 25 could be the defining factor, as to which festival aim the Co. Carlow inmate will have in the spring.
Sacre On Course For Clarence House Return
Nicky Henderson reported over the weekend that Sprinter Sacre is on course for a return to the racecourse in Saturday's Clarence House Chase, providing that the ground is suitable for his star two-mile chaser. Having not been seen on the track since pulling up in the 2013 Desert Orchid Chase, the Seven Barrows inmate produced a pleasing schooling round at Newbury over Christmas and having come through those exertions unscathed he's now aiming to cement his place at the head of the Queen Mother Champion Chase betting with victory over Tingle Creek champion Dodging Bullets. Already an odds-on shot for the Ascot contest, connections will be hoping that Sprinter Sacre can recapture the form that saw him launch into the elite two-mile chasers category.