It has been another busy and exciting week on the Road to Cheltenham with the big meetings and top class horses now coming thick and fast as we head into November. Once again we have been keeping our beady eye on all of the eye catchers and market movers from the last seven days with the Festival clearly in the front of our mind.
As always on a Monday, we have all of the key horses from the past week right here in one place so punters can keep across the established stars as well as those who are perhaps just making their name this winter. The bulk of the action of course came over the weekend on both sides of the Irish Sea and that was our focus but there were also one or two nice mid-week performances that have made our blog this week.
There were some cracking cards across the UK over the weekend with Wetherby in particular catching most of the attention to this mind on Saturday afternoon. The West Yorkshire track played host to one of its biggest fixtures of the season with the Charlie Hall Chase the feature race of the day. The Grade 2 contest has grown into a key early season race for the staying chasers and we saw a stunning performance from the experienced but classy Menorah to claim the win.
Menorah is still perhaps best known for his Supreme Novices Hurdle win from 2010 but as he has got older, the Philip Hobbs horse is clearly enjoying the extended trip and he showed that on Saturday afternoon. Under a good ride from Richard Johnson, Menorah pulled well clear of a decent field to enter the King George picture, while he was also installed in the Gold Cup market at a price of around 16/1 as a result of this performance.
Silviniaco Conti had started the Charlie Hall as a warm favourite but the King George hero failed to find much off the bridle after travelling well through the trip. It was a below par run from the Paul Nicholls Chaser and he drifted in the Gold Cup market out to 14/1 from 8/1 with Ladbrokes following his seasonal debut.
The main support race on the Wetherby card was the Bet365 Hurdle which although it only had three runners, still managed to produce some interesting talking points. We saw a thrilling front running performance from the improving Cole Harden who rightly enters the World Hurdle picture as a result for Warren Greatrex. Bet365 were every impressed with the run and cut the 5-year-old into 14/1 from 33/1 for the stayers hurdle race at the Festival with his two classy opponents unable to land a blow.
It was a particularly disappointing run from At Fishers Cross as he failed to get near Cole Harden when asked to do so and his future now looks up in the air. He is out to 16/1 for the World Hurdle this morning but connections did float the idea of a chasing career which is interesting and with that in mind, At Fishers Cross is now a 20/1 shot for the RSA Chase with Skybet.
One other horse who made an impression at Wetherby on Saturday was Aurore D'Estruval who entered the Mares Hurdle picture at Cheltenham with a nice win. The John Quinn mare bolted up after a good round of jumping and was cut from 12/1 into 5/1 for the Mares Hurdle at the Festival as a result of this triumph.
The big card over in Ireland on Saturday was at Down Royal as they hosted one of their premier meetings of the year. The JNWine Champion Chase is always a race worth watching with an eye on the Gold Cup market and we saw a thrilling performance from Road To Riches who continued his upward curve with a wide margin victory for Noel Meade.
The 7-year-old won the Galway Plate in the summer and returned last month to finish a close second to Sizing Europe over an inadequate trip. This was a career best though as he streaked clear of Rocky Creek by 11 lengths with Boston Bob, First Lieutenant and Ma Filleule beaten out of sight. The Lexus Chase now appears to be the next target for the Gigginstown horse and bookmakers were clearly impressed with this run with Road To Riches cut into 20/1 from 33/1 for the Gold Cup following this latest win.
There was more success for Gigginstown at Down Royal with Don Cossack increasing his burgeoning reputation yet further with another win. The Gordon Elliot trained horse pulled over 8 lengths clear of Wonderful Charm to win the Powers Irish Whiskey Chase over 2m4f. Don Cossack jumped really well and he too is a potential Gold Cup horse for Ireland for which he was cut into 16/1 from 25/1 for after this win.
There were more Gold Cup clues at Carlisle on Sunday as Holywell made his seasonal debut for Jonjo O'Neill. The 7-year-old was a Grade 1 winning novice last season but he was slightly disappointing in first time cheek pieces on Sunday as he finished a distant third behind Many Clouds and Eduard. He clearly needed the run and should be given another chance although he did drift to 14/1 from 10/1 for the Gold Cup as a result.
Alan King appears to be running into form at the moment and he picked up two impressive winners at Huntingdon on Sunday afternoon. King saddled Nyanza to success in the Juvenile Hurdle in fine style awhile Ordo Ab Chao looked decent as he won the 2m4f Novices Hurdle on the same card. Both will encounter bigger tests of course by both have potential with Nyanza a 25/1 shot for the Triumph Hurdle and Ordo Ab Chao installed in the Neptune market at 33/1 after this win.
Henry De Bromhead picked up a nice win at Naas on Sunday with Moscow Mannon claiming the Poplar Square Chase over two miles and he is another improving type. Felix Yonger was back in second although he was giving 9lbs away so lost little in defeat and both of these horses are likely to be winning more races this winter on the way to the Cheltenham Festival.
Mid-Week Eye Catchers
The weekend does dominate the jump racing scene but there was also some excellent mid-week action that took the eye during the last seven days. Supreme Novices Hurdle 4th, Sgt Reckless, made his chasing debut at Uttoxeter on Friday for Mick Channon and he cruised to victory as expected. It was a a taking performance from the horse and he was cut from 33/1 into 20/1 for the Arkle Chase next March which looks a very fair price at this stage.
Over in Ireland on Friday we saw Little King Robin produce a very brave performance to win the WKD Hurdle over at Down Royal. It was a fourth successive win for the Mare who held off Arctic Fire with a a front running performance and she was cut from 20/1 into 7/1 for the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle following this career best performance.
We also saw the return of Albert Bartlett winner, Very Wood, last week and he duly won his chasing debut with the minimum of fuss. The Noel Meade trained horse jumped and travelled well before winning going away and although this was an average race on paper, it was a pleasing performance on the eye. He looks an RSA Chase contender in the waiting with the Gigginstown horse a best price of 20/1 for the Cheltenham contest at this stage of the winter.