The main focus of the horse racing world was on Ascot at the weekend as they hosted their Champions Day card on the flat but nevertheless there have been one or two very nice jumping performances over the past week or so. It has of course been relatively quiet in terms of volume of quality jump horses given the time of the year but there has still be some performances to scribble in our notebook with the rest of the season in mind.
The Don Returns In Style
Last Thursday at Punchestown saw the seasonal debut of the best rated chaser in training from last season as the highly exciting Don Cossack returned. Gordon Elliott has long thought highly of this horse and last season he appeared to be improving with every run which culminated in a demolition job at Grade 1 level back in April at Aintree.
The Gold Cup is very much the aim for Don Cossack and he looked on good terms with himself last Thursday as he won the 2m7f Irish Daily Star Chase with the minimum of fuss. The Don jumped well before pulling clear of Roi Du Mee on the run-in and although this was only a relatively weak race, he did it well and remains a best price of 8/1 with Betfred for the Gold Cup in March.
Elsewhere on the Punchestown card we saw Gordon Elliott pick up the other big race of the day as The Game Changer produced an excellent display to win the Buck House Novice Chase over 2m2f. The Game Changer has been on the go all summer but looked better than ever as he dispatched Sizing Platinum with the minimum of fuss and he is likely to be put away now before a spring campaign.
The other performance of note on the Punchestown card came from the Noel Meade trained Gunnery Sergeant who won the Bumper in impressive fashion on his first start under rules. The Gigginstown house owned son of Presenting won with something in hand despite the fact he is likely to need more cut than he encountered at Punchestown to be seen at his best and he looks like one to watch over obstacles for the rest of the season.
The New One Wins On First Start This Season
Former Neptune winner The New One once again won the William Hill Listed Hurdle at Kempton on Sunday afternoon as he started the long road towards another tilt at the Champion Hurdle. The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained hurdler has been 3rd and 5th in the most recent Champions Hurdles and he looked ok as he returned for his first start since March having been diagnosed with kissing spines.
The New One produced a solid display and got the win but did need to be pushed out to do so which meant he was on the drift to 20/1 from 16/1 with William Hill for the Champion Hurdle in March. Connections were happy with the run given his injury and we should expect The New One to run at Haydock and the International Hurdle before Christmas.
It has been a brilliant summer for John Ferguson and Aidan Coleman so far and they once again teamed up at Kempton on Sunday with the exciting Maputo winning his 4th consecutive novice hurdle. The Kempton race on Sunday has been won by some decent sorts down the years and Maputo was impressive on the eye and he could be the best of a whole host of Ferguson novice hurdlers to follow.
Maputo will need to prove himself in a higher grade and could go to the Open Meeting at Cheltenham where he will get that test but for the time being he has been cut from 33/1 into 20/1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle with Bet Victor.
There was plenty of repsonse to Maputo winning at Kempton on social media. Can John Ferguson get a big win at Cheltenham this season?
We should also mention the run of Oceane who caught the eye in the Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton on Sunday for Alan King. The 3-year-old won his second start of the season in impressive fashion as he jumped and travelled with style to justify his short price. The juvenile division is yet to light up this autumn but Oceane looks a solid yard stick and has been installed as a 25/1 shot for the Triumph hurdle with Hills.
Road To Cheltenham Summary - 19th October 2015
The New One is out to 20/1, from 16/1, for the Champion Hurdle with William Hill despite winning at Kempton on Sunday.
Don Cossack remains a best price 8/1 for the Gold Cup after winning in strong fashion at Punchestown last Thursday.
The John Ferguson trained Maputo is into 20/1, from 33/1, for the Supreme with Bet Victor after his impressive win at Kempton.
The Gordon Elliott trained The Game Changer is likely to be given a break before returning in the spring after winning at Punchestown