The National Hunt season is now in full swing with the big races coming thick and fast over the coming weeks and months. This past weekend saw the action crank up a notch or two with the Showcase Meeting at Prestbury Park taking place alongside some good action at Kempton on Sunday afternoon. There were some eye catching performances across the weekend with the The New One the star of the show at Kempton.
The New One made a name for himself last season when he won the Neptune Novices Hurdle at the Festival but he looks to have improved plenty over the summer. He won the William Hill Download The App Listed Hurdle on Sunday in emphatic fashion to boost his reputation, even at this early stage of the campaign. He dispatched Rock On Ruby with the minimum of fuss which is rock solid form by any standard.
Rock On Ruby was good enough to win the Champion Hurdle in 2012 while last season he chased home Hurricane Fly in a brave bid to defend his crown. The New One was too good on Sunday though as he quickened away from Rock On Ruby to claim a comfortable win by ten lengths. The bookmakers were certainly impressed with the win with Betfred slashing his Champion Hurdle price from 7/1 into 9/2 as a result of his Kempton success.
Rock On Ruby meanwhile, saw his odds drift significantly as a result of his second place finish, the Harry Fry horse is now as big as 20/1 from 14/1 with Betfred to regain the Champion Hurdle. He certainly needed the run on Sunday and is likely to step up in trip next time for the Ascot Hurdle, with connections even considering a World Hurdle tilt in March if he proves his stamina.
Elsewhere on the Kempton card we saw a strong chasing debut from the Paul Nicholls trained Dodging Bullets. He was god enough to finish ninth in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season but he could be more suited to the bigger obstacles. He won the William Hill In App Store Beginners Chase in comfortable style at the weekend and although he didn't beat much, it was a pleasing debut over fences, and he could now head to Cheltenham for the Open Meeting next month.
The big novice hurdle on the Kempton card was won by the interesting Sea Lord who could turn out to be a decent sort this season. He was a good flat horse but it has been over hurdles where he has excelled, with the win at Kempton his sixth on the bounce. He has been on the go all summer but looked impressive when winning on Sunday and can be backed at 33/1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle as a result of his latest triumph.
The Showcase Meeting at Cheltenham is always a quality early season meeting and once again we saw one or two nice horses stake their early Festival claims. Chief among those was Saint Roque who won the Neptune Novices Hurdle on Friday, a race won by The New One last year, to push his career to the next step. The Paul Nicholls horse is another one who has been on the go during the summer but he seems to be improving all the time and could be one to follow. Plans for him to go novice chasing could now be on hold with the Coral Cup a potential target over the same course and distance.
It was a great weekend for Paul Nicholls overall with Lac Fontana another winner for Ditcheat at the weekend. He won the maiden hurdle on Friday afternoon in good style and while it was a weak race on paper, he did show some good potential ensuring he is one to keep a close eye on.
On the same card we saw Third Intention win the Cheltenham Annual Members Novices Chase over 2m4f. The Colin Tizzard horse beat the in-form Rebel Fitz a touch cosily and he will surely be aimed at a return to the Festival in March. The Jewson Novices Chase is the most likely aim for the horse with Paddy Power making him an interesting 25/1 shot at this early stage of the winter.
One other horse to take note of from the weekend was the return of Triumph Hurdle winner, Our Conor, who had a run out on the flat at Naas on Sunday afternoon. The Champion Hurdle remains his main target and he looked decent in finishing fourth over 1m4f with connections stating he will improve for the run. His next target will be the Morgiana Hurdle and a potential clash with Hurricane Fly at Punchestown which should give punters a clearer idea of his Champion Hurdle potential.
There is no doubt though that The New One was the star attraction of the weekend with his Champion Hurdle credentials looking stronger by the day. He showed a thrilling turn of foot to dispatch a top horse in Rock On Ruby with Nigel Twiston-Davies singling out the International hurdle as his nest race on the road to the Festival.