It has been another fascinating week on the road to the Cheltenham Festival with a number of top class horses staking their claims. We have seen plenty of action on both sides of the Irish Sea although the wet weather has had a major affect on the ground conditions which will of course muddy the form lines going forward. Once again we have picked out those horse who have impressed us as well as those star names who have shaken up the ante-post Festival markets.
The big race of the past week was the Betfair Chase at Haydock and we saw a number of potential Gold Cup contenders take their chance. In the end there was a brilliant performance from the improving Silviniaco Conti who put himself right into the Cheltenham picture with a fine win. Ruby Walsh gave the horse an excellent front running performance as he followed up his win in the Charlie Hall Chase with another fine staying performance,
There is no doubt whatsoever that Silviniaco Conti is on an upward curve at the moment and connections may send him straight to the Gold Cup in March. The bookmakers were suitably impressed with the run and he is now a general 7/1 shot for the race having been as big as 14/1 prior to his Haydock success. He beat 2011 Gold Cup winner Long Run into second place who clearly plugged on well but was never able to land a blow on the winner under Sam Waley-Cohen. The Nicky Henderson horse is a general 8/1 shot for the Gold Cup and he will now go to the King George looking to get his season back on track.
The other big race in the UK over the weekend was the Amlin Chase at Ascot as current Champion Chaser, Finians Rainbow, made his return to the track. The Nicky Henderson horse started a warm order favourite but he hated the heavy ground and trailed in last place and he will need to be given another chance. The race was won by the impressive Captain Chris who now looks set to head to the King George on Boxing Day before returning to the Festival in the spring.
Captain Chris came fourth in the Ryanair Chase last season and that looks set to be his target once again this time around. His jumping has always been a slight problem but that looked much better at Ascot and the bookmakers slashed his odds into 12/1 from 20/1 for the Boxing Day feature following his Amlin Chase success.
The big eye catcher over in Ireland from the past seven days was without doubt, Don Cossack, who finally made his hurdling debut for trainer Gordon Elliott. He was a top class Bumper contender last season and the Gigginstown horse looked even better over hurdles as he hacked up to win the EBF Maiden Hurdle at Navan on Sunday. Connections were clearly delighted with the horse and while he didn't beat too much he did everything that was asked of him ahead of some tougher challenges in the coming months. The Gordon Elliott horse was trimmed into as short as 8/1 from 12/1 in the Supreme Novices Hurdle Betting which is already looking like a hot race with Waaheb, Dodging Bullets and Jezki all curently being backed in the ante post market.
One other eye catcher that did take our fancy over the past seven days was Clondaw Kaempfer who won his second race of the season at Haydock on Friday. The Donald McCain horse is sneaking under the radar at this stage, he hasn't beaten much so far but he is clearly improving all the time and may make up into a live Neptune contender at Cheltenham in March, for which he is now rated as a 12/1 chance. Clearly another one to watch.