It has been the calm after the storm over the past few days as the National Hunt world settles down after a racing bonanza over the Christmas and New Year period. It was a relatively quiet weekend of racing action for punters looking for Cheltenham Festival pointers as the re-arrnaged Welsh Grand National at Chepstow, took centre stage. Even taking that into account, there were still a couple of horses who made an impression on us over the weekend that we think maybe worth keeping a close eye with the Festival in mind.
The Tolworth Hurdle is one of the last Grade One two mile novice hurdle races before the Festival and it looks to have produced an interesting winner. It was Melodic Rendezvous who claimed the win for trainer, Jeremy Scott, and he could be a live contender for the Supreme Novices Hurdle as a result. It was a very impressive performance on heavy ground by the seven year old with the Charlie Longsdon trained Pendra back in second place and warm favourite Royal Boy, from the Nicky Henderson yard, unable to land a blow back in third place. The bookmakers were clearly taken with Melodic Rendezvous, who is now available at 10/1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle having been as big as 25/1 prior to his Sandown success.
Elsewhere on the Sandown card we saw Une Artiste enhance her reputation in the 32 Red Mares Hurdle. She won the Fred Winter at the Festival last season at a big price and looks set for a tilt at the Mares Hurdle for trainer Nicky Henderson this year. Une Artiste dispatched the likes of Alasi and Kentford Grey Lady with some style at the Surrey track and she is now available at 7/1 from 11/1 for the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Over in Ireland we saw a very exciting performance from Rule The World who won in impressive style at Naas for trainer Mouse Morris. The Gigginstown House Stud owned six year old won the Slaney Novice Hurdle over 2m4f on soft ground to enter the picture for the Cheltenham Festival. He dispatched the well fancied Minsk and hot favourite, Champagne Fever, by 16 and 24 lengths respectively to the delight of connections and he now has two Cheltenham options. The Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle looks the most likely with Rule The World halved in price to 10/1 from 20/1 for that race while he is best priced 14/1 for the longer Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle following his Naas success.
We may have lacked some of the real star names over the weekend but punters can still pick up some important Festival clues as we have pointed out above. We have seen in the past a potential Cheltenham Festival winner can sneak through the season under the radar so it is important to keep a close eye on both sides of the Irish Sea over the coming weeks.