It has been a relatively quiet week on the road to Cheltenham this past few days but there has still bee more than enough action for us to sink our teeth into on a Monday morning. We continue to make our way towards the spring and with the Festival now just a matter of weeks away, the countdown really is starting to ramp up a notch.
As we have already said it has been a quiet week but there was still some eye catching performances to scribble into our notebook and as always, we have done our best to include every performance of note from the last seven days right here in the latest Road to Cheltenham blog.
Eye Catchers on the Road To Cheltenham this Week
The star attraction on Saturday came at Punchestown as they hosted the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle over two miles and we saw a very taking performance from Douvan. Willie Mullins won this race 12 months ago with Vautotur before he went onto win the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Festival and the Irish Champion Trainer will be hoping that Douvan can do exactly the same this year.
Few would rule that out at this stage given the way that Douvan performed on Saturday as he travelled and jumped well before pulling comfortably clear of a solid field. It was just his second run of the season and he seems to be an improver with plenty more to come which has to be an exciting prospect for his connections.
Douvan is now likely to go straight to the Supreme Novices Hurdle and Ladbrokes were impressed enough to cut him from 4/1 into a best price of 5/2 for that contest which looks short enough, given the quality of the opposition he has faced so far.
Meanwhile, over in the UK on Saturday there was a decent card at Kempton Park and although there were no real star names, we did see some very nice horses with Cheltenham in mind. The William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle was the feature race of the day and we saw a stunning performance from Tea For Two with Lizzie Kelly once again hitting the headlines.
The young jockey gave the Nick Williams horse a cracking ride and he simply blew the field away to win with his head in his chest. It was a very good run from the horse and although he is sure to be bumped up by the handicapper for this, Tea For Two looks a Coral Cup type and fairly he was installed at 12/1 for that race by Paddy Power on Saturday afternoon.
Elsewhere on the Kempton card we saw Balder Succes get back to winning ways for Alan King in the Listed Chase. He has been mixing it top company for sometime now and he looked good on Saturday as he dispatched Fox Appeal with the minimum of fuss and he was cut from 16/1 into 14/1 for the Ryanair Chase as a result of this nice run which might attract some each-way money.
One other horse we must mention from the Kempton card is the Colin Tizzard trained Kingscourt Native who won the 3m Novice Hurdle on Saturday. Under a good ride from Noel Fehily, the horse won very easily and although he will need plenty more to feature at the Festival, he is open to that and was installed as a best price of 20/1 for the Albert Bartlett with Skybet in the aftermath of this victory.
Willie Mullins was once again in the winners enclosure on Sunday with the Irish Champion Trainer saddling Au Quart De Tour to victory on his first start under rules. The five-year-old travelled in behind the leader well before he quickened up well when asked to and he now appears on course for Cheltenham in March. Mullins has farmed the Champion Bumper down the years and with the trainer nominating that race for him after this success, Au Quart De Tour was cut from 16/1 into 7/1 for that very contest, which looks fair.
There was a cracking novice chase up at Doncaster on Friday afternoon with Josses Hill getting back to winning ways for Nicky Henderson. The Supreme Novices Hurdle runner-up could only manage 2nd on debut at Ascot last month but connections were pleased on Friday as he won a decent race over the fences. The horse travelled ok but his jumping was less than impressive which meant that although he won on Friday, he was pushed out to 12/1 from 10/1 by Skybet for the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham in March,
Josses Hill was of course the closest challenger to Vautour in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season and you haver to think that he has the talent to run a massive race in the Arkle but his jumping so far hasn't been good enough which is a worry for those who have backed him ante-post.
Douvan the Supreme Novices Hurdle favourite after impressive Moscow Flyer win on Saturday
Jossess Hill wins at Doncaster but drifts in the Arkle Chase betting after some poor jumps
Au Quart De Tour the favourite for the Champion Bumper in March after taking Fairyhouse win on Sunday
Lanzarote Hurdle winner Tea For Two on target for the Coral Cup after easy success for Nicky Williams and Lizzie Kelly.