Sandown Park on Saturday
Last weekend was one of the best that this National Hunt season has seen so far with top-class action on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Sandown Park saw young trainer Olly Murphy train his first Grade 1 in the Betway Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, as Itchy Feet produced a superb round of jumping on just his second start over fences.
He travelled well despite showing visible signs of greenness throughout, suggesting he’s only going to get better in time. He’ll line up in the Marsh Novices’ Chase (formerly known as the JLT) at Cheltenham next, for which he is a second favourite.
His connections were over the moon with their victory and the volume in the winners’ enclosure was turned up a notch as they were presented with their winning mementos.
Elsewhere, Quel Destin upset favourite backers by toppling the odds-on Call Me Lord, with Paul Nicholls suggesting immediately after that the Prix Barka could be an ideal target for him later this year.
Christian Williams showed his talents as a trainer again when saddling Limited Reserve to success in the Betway Heroes Handicap. It was suggested earlier in the week that he wanted to keep Jack Tudor’s claim intact for this big handicap, and the pair duly obliged.
Tudor is superb for a young jockey and. with luck on his side, he has all the makings of a future champion jockey.
Betway Winter Derby Trial
It was great to see Bangkok line up for Andrew Balding in the Betway Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield Park on Saturday.
The well-backed favourite made light work of a competitive field to set himself up for a tilt at the Betway Winter Derby in a little under two weeks.
He’s a class act and will take all the beating if he does line up rather than head to Saudi Arabia.
Leopardstown on Saturday
Everything about the Dublin Racing Festival was a success from where I was sitting, and the first day was certainly one for the punters with four well-supported favourites winning.
Latest Exhibition looks set to line up in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham – for which he is – following his success in the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle. He is an out-and-out stayer with plenty of class and toe to boot and it’s great to see Paul Nolan with another top-class horse.
The Dublin Chase saw Chacun Pour Soi come of age by defeating stablemate Min with a performance that had everything, including an electric round of jumping. It was a shame that Ciloas Emery fell at the first, as I would have loved to have seen him showcase his talent, but I’m sure he’ll do so at Cheltenham in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase ().
It looks as though Min will now head to the Ryanair Chase as he seems to need slightly further than the minimum trip of 2m these days. He’s currently a antepost favourite.
The Irish Arkle was won by Notebook, who confirmed himself as the rightful favourite in the Arkle at Cheltenham, although the form looked average and I’m convinced there is much better value at this stage.
Honeysuckle won the Irish Champion Hurdle under an inspired ride from Rachael Blackmore, but I can’t believe the form is good enough to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. She’ll struggle to beat Benie Des Deux if they lined up against each other in the Mares Hurdle.
The closing race on day one was won by Appreciate It, who looked different class to any of the other bumpers horses I’ve seen this season. He’s now for the Champion Bumper and it’s going to take a good one to beat him.
He’s going to make a lovely horse in time and will surely be winning Grade 1s over both hurdles and fences. Keep him on your side!
Leopardstown on Sunday
The biggest story of the day on Sunday – and arguably the weekend – was Faugheen winning the Grade 1 Flogas Chase at 12 years of age. He’s tough and honest and virtually everyone cheered him home, including those who, like me, backed Easy Game in second.
The runner-up will be of interest in the future as that was just his second start over fences. He’s sure to come on plenty for the experience.
Delta Work won the Irish Gold Cup in dour fashion, beating the well-backed Kemboy into second. It was a great performance from the Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old and it will be some training performance if he were to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in five weeks’ time. He’s currently to do so.
With Delta Work winning on Sunday and with Santini winning the Cotswold Chase last weekend, the form of the 2019 RSA looks very strong, and it will be good to see the winner of that race, Topofthegame, back next season.
The final horse to mention is the winner of the Chanelle Pharma Novices’ Hurdle, Asterion Forlonge.
He actually went into my notebook last time out but went unbacked this weekend. He galloped and stayed so well and also quickened at the right stages of the race. At , he is now near the top of the betting for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
I’m looking forward to Huntingdon on Thursday for the Betway Sidney Banks Hurdle, a race in which we’ll hopefully see Shishkin enter.
He looked very smart at Newbury last time out and is the current favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
There is also a very good Class 2 handicap that will no doubt attract a competitive field.
Visit Betway’s horse racing betting page.