Cheltenham Festival Trials day lived up to its name on Saturday afternoon as a number of jumping stars enhanced their festival credentials with the classy triumvirate of Many Clouds, Saphir Du Rheu and Peace And Co all producing impressive efforts during a sun-fuelled afternoon. We pick out the five biggest stories of the last seven days in our National Hunt weekly round up.
Clouds Emerges As Major Gold Cup Player After BetBright Victory
Oliver Sherwood will have real Cheltenham Gold Cup aspirations with his stable star Many Clouds, as the Hennessy Gold Cup hero landed another premier Gold Cup trial on Saturday as he fended off the classy duo of Smad Place and Dynaste in the BetBright Cup Chase at Cheltenham. A field of six lined up for one of the showpiece events on Festival Trials Day at Prestbury Park, but it was Sherwood's eight-year-old who showed tremendous battling qualities to fend off the aforementioned pair of greys and he is now a best-priced 10/1 with Betfred for what is shaping up into a fascinating Gold Cup on March 13. Leigton Aspell was made to work on the 4/1 shot, as he look to fight off his market rivals, but whilst Dynaste's stamina came into question again and Smad Place was unable to turn round the Hennessy form with Many Clouds, it was the latter who prevailed by one-and-a-quarter lengths in a terrific finish. Whilst the Gold Cup is well and truly on Sherwood's radar for Many Clouds, David Pipe and Tom Scudamore uttered that Dynaste is likely to drop back in trip, as he looks to win the Ryanair Chase for the second time, a race he is 5/1 joint-favourite for.
Saphir Du Rheu Second Favourite For World Hurdle After Cleeve Win
Sam Twiston-Davies suffered disappointment in the famous black, red and white silks of the Stewart Family 12 months ago, as Big Buck's was unable to fight off Knockara Beau in the Cleeve Hurdle. However, Paul Nicholls' number one rider was able to pilot the same colours to victory on Saturday as Saphir Du Rheu, under a power-packed ride from Twiston-Davies, fought of a spirited Reve De Sivola in yet another sparkling finish at Prestbury Park over the weekend. Having suffered some jumping mishaps over fences, the Ditcheat-based runner was sent back over timber and it proved an inspired decision as the easy-to-back 3/1 winner landed the Grade 2 prize and is now at the forefront of the 2015 Ladbrokes World Hurdle betting. Available at a best-priced 7/1 with some firms for the 3m staying showpiece, Saphir Du Rheu will return for the third day of the National Hunt jamboree in the spring and who's to say he couldn't be in contention coming up the hill in March. Reve De Sivola, is still available at 25/1 after his eye-catching run, but connections will have one eye on the weather, whilst Un Temps Pour Tout wasn't completely disgraced in third and is a 16/1 shot for the stayers' prize.
Peace And Co Slashed For Triumph After Comfortable Trial Success
Nicky Henderson's stranglehold over the JCB Triumph Hurdle betting strengthened over the weekend as Peace And Co produced another sparkling performance on British soil and the top notch four-year-old is now a best-priced 6/4 with most bookmakers for the juvenile showpiece at the Cheltenham Festival. Having burst on to the scene in tremendous fashion at Doncaster, the Seven Barrows inmate was expected to win this with aplomb and duly delivered under a patient Barry Geraghty. A slow gallop didn't hinder his chances and approaching the last flight, Geraghty stayed motionless, as his rivals were all low in the saddle, and a superb leap saw him pull clear of Karezak and kept up to work, the winner pulled three lengths clear of the finish. Contenders will emerge over the next few weeks for the Friday opener, but Peace And Co looks a first rate contender for what is always an intriguing race at National Hunt HQ.
Hurricane Fly Surpasses Istabraq With Fifth Irish Champion Hurdle
Hurricane Fly surpassed the mighty Istabraq on Sunday afternoon, as the 22-times Grade 1 winner landed an historic fifth Irish Champion Hurdle crown at Leopardstown. Unbeaten at the Irish venue, it was dubbed as another duel between the Fly and the reigning Champion Hurdle hero Jezki, who was trying to beat his old adversary for the first time this season. The Emerald Isle highlight didn't disappoint as even though Ruby Walsh was made to cajole the Fly into contention a fair way from home, the hurdling superstart picked up to eye-ball the front-running Jezki at the final flight. A jolting mistake by Jessica Harrington's charge ruined his chances of landing the prize and Walsh was able to career clear to beat Arctic Fire by three-and-a-half lengths to make it a famous fifth success. Following the race, all eyes were on Walsh as the question was put to him on whether he would opt not to ride the Fly to pilot red-hot favourite Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle, but Walsh was not for divulging any information. The dual-winner Hurricane Fly is now as short as 8/1 for the Champion Hurdle, and if he is to line up then has to be given the utmost respect.
Un De Sceaux Odds-On Favourite For Arkle After Leopardstown Romp
Un De Sceaux was a sensational winner of the Irish Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday and Willie Mullins' exciting chasing talent has been slashed to an odds-on favourite for the Arkle Challenge Trophy on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. The County Carlow inmate was expected to have his toughest test to date, as he took on top notch novices in the shape of Clarcam and Gilgamboa, but that duo were unable to land any sort of blow on the runaway winner. Setting a fierce gallop from the outset, Un De Sceaux just quickened away from his rivals as they approached the straight and they were unable to live with this mind-blowing turn of pace and it was Clarcam who could finish closer, a staggering 15 lengths behind. Available at 10/11 with a couple of bookmakers for the Arkle, Un De Sceaux appears to have a phenomenal engine and he could well be regarded as one of the Irish bankers come the festival in under two months.