It was a somewhat confusing weekend for those looking to cement Cheltenham plans with Ivanovich Gorbatov fluffing his lines in the Grade 1 Gain Spring Juvenile Hurdle in desperate ground at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained gelding had been a low as 7-2 for the Triumph Hurdle after an exemplary first effort over hurdles at Leopardstown over Christmas when scoring comfortably from Let’s Dance, but could only trail in fourth, beaten nearly ten lengths, behind Footpad on his return.

The Ballydoyle team rarely get their sums wrong and, as he is a son of Montjeu out of Gulch mare, there is little doubt he can perform infinitely better should the ground dry out at Cheltenham in March. Ivanovich Gorbatov’s last success on the Flat was when winging to a two-length victory from Venezia over 1m 7f at Leopardstown in August on fast ground off a mark of 97 and, although confidence may have been jolted, it is far too early to be writing him off and he could go off a much more backable price on the day, with his odds as long as 7-1 as we stand.

Standing was something that Valseur Lido couldn’t do in the Irish Gold Cup on Saturday as he unseated Ruby Walsh when looking to have the race at his mercy and is a 20-1 shot for the Gold Cup, but we have our colours firmly tied to the mast with Cue Card. With Road To Riches being put in his place by Carlingford Lough, the claims of Cue Card look unmistakeable and let’s hope he continues in the rich vein of form that has seen him with the Charlie Hall, Betfair Chase and King George VI Chase this term.

Followers will be aware of personal wishes for Yanworth to take his place in the line-up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle despite his demolition of his rivals in the Neptune Investment Trial at Cheltenham at the end of month, and the form of his easy success in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle over two miles at Ascot in December was given a timely boost by Charbel.

Charbel was chasing shadows when flattered by a two and three-quarter length eased down victory for Yanworth at Ascot, but he showed he is no mug at Musselburgh on Sunday when slamming 5-4 favourite Brain Power by 11 lengths in the Sky Bet Supreme Scottish Trial Novices’ Hurdle. The Kim Bailey-trained gelding was given a 33-1 quote for the Supreme afterwards, which looks about right, but we can live in hope that Alan King will delay a decision about his Cheltenham target for Yanworth until the five-day entries for the festival races have been perused.

Another Triumph Hurdle hope, Fixe Le Kap, had his claims enhanced when Tommy Silver (beaten a length by the aforementioned at Newbury at the end of December) proved an easy winner of the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial. He looks a nice prospect who can continue to improve, but an on-song Ivanovich Gorbatov would surely have too much class for that pair.

The Musselburgh card could have unearthed a hidden gem as I was taken by the performance of Cardinal Walter in the Listed Scottish Racing County Handicap Hurdle. The Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old was having his first outing since finishing fifth in a Grade 2 event at Aintree last April and, just travelling a little too keen, found the concession of 20lb to the in-form Shrewd too much on his comeback, as he finished two and three-quarter lengths away in third place.

At least this race will have taken the gassiness out of him and good ground at the festival may well see him emerge as a leading contender for the County Hurdle.

Cardinal Walter - 1pt @ 20/1