Former Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey Paddy Aspell runs the rule over last week's Cheltenham Festival trials, Angels Breath doing little to convince as a couple of handicap tips shine.
It's just over two weeks the Cheltenham Festival's famous roar, and this weekend we may have learnt the winner of the first race, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle - though I don't think we saw him on the track.
Unfortunately the most impressive winner of the weekend, Fusil Raffles, who set a new track record at Kempton, was ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival less than 24 hours later - and shortly after Arkle Novices' Chase favourite Le Richebourg was also sidelined.
Still, there were some interesting performances to consider with regards to the Cheltenham betting, not least that of Angels Breath, who before he ran was favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
The biggest question left for former Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite Angels Breath to answer after this defeat on Saturday in the Dovecote, is not his ability but if next month's Cheltenham Festival is going to come a year too early.
He was by no means given a hard race on his second racecourse start, and connections will be pleased to get the miles on the clock over hurdles, but owner Dai Walters also has Al Dancer for the Supreme. I would be far keener to be betting on him as he has more experience, and a well-run race will really seems to bring out the best in this horse.
It was an emotional win by Walt at Kempton on Saturday for owner Phil Simmonds, as he wanted to quit his involvement in ownership after a run of unfortunate events with his horses.
Trainer Neil Mulholland persuaded him to stick with it and both were well rewarded at Kempton. The fitting of headgear in December has really sharpened this horse up and he has now won three of his last four races. Connections will look at the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham for this game and tough individual, bookmakers pricing him up at no bigger than 20/1.
The 4m Eider Chase at Newcastle has traditionally been a gruelling soft-ground affair, but Saturday's renewal was run on faster ground, resulting in a relatively compact finish - the first four covered by six and a half lengths.
Winner Crosspark travelled and fenced extremely well, and was produced to perfection by jockey Jamie Moore, driven to hit the front on the run-in and win by a neck.
The nine-year-old was giving weight away to all the placed horses and should continue to improve. He would be making his Cheltenham debut if taking up his entry in the Kim Muir Handicap Chase over 3m2f next month, and is an interesting 33/1 for the amatuer event.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Chosen Mate won the Johnstown Novice Hurdle in a very close photo-finish on Sunday, pipping the four-year-old Hannon, who was immediately slashed in the Triumph Hurdle betting.
He hadn't been on the Cheltenham radar at all, odds of anywhere from 50/1 to 100/1 quoted, but after that run, the John McConnell-trained star is as short as 25/1 with Paddy Power, only a few firms still offering the top price of 40/1.
Hannon finished very strongly from the back of the final hurdle, despite his rider David Noonan dropping his whip half way up the run-in. The winner was carrying 14lbs more than Hannon and would have been beaten in another stride.
His form however is strong and he was bouncing back from a defeat to the good mare Sinoria last time out. He does hold Cheltenham Festival entries, but Elliott stated he wants to save him for Aintree.
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