The last seven days have once again been packed full of top class performances with the road to the Cheltenham Festival well and truly hotting up. We have seen some of the biggest names in the sport make their mark this week, while the action over the weekend was as exciting as ever on both sides of the Irish Sea.
We must also mention AP McCoy who rode his 4000th winner at Towcester on Thursday to confirm his place in the record books. It was a big boost for the sport with McCoy on the front and back pages of the newspapers, which can only be a positive. As always though on Monday morning, we have been taking a closer look at some of the action from the last week and there were some notable performances to take in.
There was some good mid-week action last week with the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter the highlight. All eyes were on Ryanair Chase champion, Cue Card, who started as a warm favourite despite giving away lumps of weight. In the end though the Colin Tizzard horse failed out of contention as the weight told, leaving the consistent Somersby to take a top class win for Mick Channon.
It was safe to say that Cue Card didn't lose too much in defeat with connections quick to say that he will come on leaps and bounds for the run. He drifted to 5/1 from 4/1 for the Ryanair Chase as a result of his run while Somerbsy is as short as 12/1 for the same race following his Exeter success.
Perhaps the most eye catching performance on the Exeter card came from elsewhere though with Doctor Harper winning his hurdling debut. The five-year-old won the Plymouth Novices' Hurdle in some style last Tuesday and is now as short as 20/1 with Paddy Power in the Supreme Novices Hurdle betting.
As always, the weekend provided plenty of top class action with Wincanton and Sandown of particular interest on Saturday afternoon. The Elite Hurdle is always a good race and we saw another very good winner emerge in the form of Melodic Rendezvous. The Jeremy Scott horse was a top novice last season before injury put paid to his Cheltenham hopes, but he looked in fine fettle at Wincanton and was subsequently trimmed from 33/1 to 20/1 for the Champion Hurdle.
Nick Scholfield gave the horse a good ride as Melodic Rendezvous pulled clear of Far West in a what was an intriguing battle. Far West was good enough to finish second in the Triumph Hurdle last season but he couldn't live with the winner here. The bookmakers were impressed with the winner with one bookmaker cutting him into 14/1 from 33/1 for the Champion Hurdle as a result of his Wincanton success.
The other horse to impress at Wincanton on Saturday was Wonderful Charm who won his second novice chase of the season. The Paul Nicholls horse won the Rising Star Novices Chase in decent fashion with Bet365 shaving his RSA Chase price a couple of points into 12/1 as a result of his latest win. It wasn't a particularly eye catching run but some good horses have won this race in recent year's and Wonderful Charm remains one to watch.
Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson had contrasting fortunes at Sandown on Saturday with two of his excellent horses taking their chance. Top hurdler Grandouet made his chasing debut in the two mile Beginners Chase but he tipped up at the last when fighting for the win. He jumped well on his chasing debut but he was far from guaranteed the win against another classy horse in Hinterland for Paul Nicholls. The feeling is that Grandouet deserves a second chance, although he did drift in the Arkle Chase betting from 8/1 to 12/1 as a result of his first start over fences.
There was a more positive result for Henderson in the Juvenile Hurdle on the Sandown card with Kentucky Hyden impressing. Barry Geraghty had an armchair ride on the horse who was making his British debut having arrived from France over the Summer. It is hard to say what he beat here but he did it well and punters wanting to back him for the Triumph Hurdle can get a best price of 16/1 at this stage.
All eyes were on Navan on Sunday afternoon with Flemenstar making his debut for Tony Martin. The eight-year-old moved from the Peter Casey stable over the summer and duly won the Fortria Chase in decent enough style. Many believe that Flemenstar is one of the best chasers in training but his jumping was far from perfect at Navan. He should improve for the run next time with softer ground likely to suit him better as we progress into the winter. His long term target remains a mystery although he is as short as 12/1 in the Champion Chase betting, and 5/1 in the Ryanair market as a result of his Navan win.
The other notable performance at Navan on Sunday came from Dedigout who won the Lismullen Hurdle for trainer Tony Martin. The Gigginstown horse looked in fine form as he won the Grade 2 race and he has been installed at 20/1 with one firm for the World Hurdle which looks short enough.
It is also worth mentioning the success of Ptit Zig on Sunday afternoon at Auteuil over in France. The Paul Nicholls horse impressed in winning the big prize pot in France and he is now one to follow this winter. Nicholls has said that the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle is a possible target for him although chasing is clearly his long term aim. He was good enough to finish third in the Fred Winter last season but looks to be improving with age, and will be an interesting horse to follow in the Fighting Fifth.