We are now just about at the start of November and still we wait for the expected downpour of rain which is really going to see this National Hunt winter spark into life. The ground up and down the country continues to remain pretty decent which is stopping plenty of horses running but there has still been plenty to admire this past week with one or two stand out displays.
Our latest Road To Cheltenham Eye Catchers blog looks at the chasing debut of the Gold Cup favourite, the Charlie Hall Chase and much much more......
Thistle Takes First Steps Towards The Gold Cup
There is only one place to start this week and that is with a look back to Chepstow last Tuesday. World Hurdle winner and ante post Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack made his first start over fences and he certainly didn't let a bumper crowd down.
Despite his novice status, connections have Thistlecrack have made it clear that provided he takes to fences, the Gold Cup will be the aim for the horse and this was an encouraging start on that journey. He did of course beat very little at Chepstow but he did it very well with an exhibition round of jumping drawing gasps and a round of applause from the knowledgeable crowd.
There is no doubt that he does have plenty more to prove over the fences this season and Colin Tizzard was quick to say that his next start is likely to come at Cheltenham in a couple of weeks time which should be a step up for him in terms of class. Thistlecrack is certainly taking the public's heart and the bookmakers are certainly wary with his price for the Gold Cup now a best 5/1, from 6/1, with bet365 as a result of this easy win.
There was another notable mid-week novice chase to watch last week and that came at Uttoxeter on Friday as Charbel held off Le Prezien and Top Notch in a thrilling race. It really was a treat of contest with the Kim Bailey trained horse jumping like a stag at the front and holding both off up the finish and it is fair to say that all three are ones to watch.
On this occasion it was Charbel who came out on top and he is now a best price 25/1 for the Arkle and 33/1 for the JLT Novices Chase which look big enough given his quality.
Seeyouatmidnight Stars At The Weekend
The top class action continued over the weekend with a top class card at Wetherby on Saturday and then again at Carlisle on Sunday and there were more than a few nice performances to scribble down in the old notebook.
Cue Card started favourite to win the Charlie Hall Chase for the 2nd year on the bounce but after travelling well for much of the race, the King George hero faded and was beaten into 3rd place by Irish Cavalier and Menorah in something of a shock.
Early season races are always tough with all of the horses n doubt needing the race to varying degree but even taking that into account it looked like a below par run from Cue Card. Rebecca Curtis was the toast of Yorkshire though with Irish Cavalier claiming the win for the in-form yard and the horse was installed as a 33/1 shot for the Gold Cup as a result.
RSA Chase winner Blaklion was another who didn't really land a blow but he might need more of a stamina test and some softer ground to be seen to best impact so he should be forgiven this run.
The other big winner on the Wetherby card was Silsol who battled on gamely to land the West Yorkshire Hurdle for Paul Nicholls and Jack Sherwood. It was a game performance from the horse, who is now a best price 33/1 for the World Hurdle with Paddy Power, whilst Ballyoptic fell when mounting a challenge and he remains of interest in this division.
We had to wait until Sunday for perhaps the best performance of the weekend with Seeyouatmidnight winning the Intermediate Chase in hugely impressive fashion. In a two runner match-up, the Sandy Thomson trained horse provided an exhibition out front to gallop the classy Bristol De Mai into the ground before pulling well clear of the field.
Bristol De Mai will want further than the 2m4f Carlisle trip but even taking that into account, this was a fantastic effort from Seeyouatmidnight and quotes of 40/1, from 66/1, for the Gold Cup look more than fair at this stage.