Tony Elves casts his eye over some of the big names the have lit up the NH scene in the last week.
A wet Monday at Kempton but there plenty to brighten up proceedings as Altior took his first step to chasing stardom in the Weatherbys Supports Starlight Novices’ Chase.
Last season’s Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner had an easy task on the book taking on 131-rated hurdler Black Corton in a match but what impressed onlookers most was the physical development the High Chaparral gelding has made since last season and he looked a real powerhouse as he strode out to the start of the two mile contest.
The early pace set by his rival didn’t suit jockey Noel Fehily who sent the 2-13 shot to the front at the third and he took to his new job like the proverbial duck to water apart from a minor blemish at the open ditch five out.
Bookmakers have, understandably, taken little risk with a proven Cheltenham performer who had seven lengths to spare from Min in the Supreme last March and he stood at a best priced 5-2 with Ladbrokes after the race for the Arkle Challenge Trophy but for a horse that could well prove an even better chaser it could well prove a reasonable price in the long term. However, he can’t really be recommended as a bet as he is hardly likely to shorten much more until he has proven himself against rivals of a similar class in a proper contest and we could well have another look at him before deciding whether to take the plunge.
The early recommendation for the Arkle, Identity Thief, who had been advised at 10-1 after his impressive debut over fences at Punchestown made it two out of two over the larger obstacles on his return to that course in the Grade 2 Ryans Cleaning Craddockstown Novices’ Chase on Sunday but with visibility almost impossible to the naked eye is was hard to gauge the merit of the performance.
The 2-5 shot was eased down after the last to beat stablemates Ordinary World and Attribution a length and three lengths with Ball D’Arc another three and a half lengths back in fourth and was reported to have put in another flawless performance under Brian Cooper. His stable are flying right now and he still looks worth a wager at 8-1 if you haven’t already secured the 10-1.
Nichols Canyon once again showed how unfortunate he is to be a very good horse in a stable full of stars when giving Willie Mullins a sixth successive victory in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle. The Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned gelding was another to run his race shrouded in fog but as he emerged from the gloom at the last he was well clear of nearest pursuer Jer’s Girl. He was cut to 6-1 from 8-1 for the World Hurdle but his final destination at Cheltenham is not likely to be known until much nearer to Festival time and for that reason can hardly be put up as a bet at this stage.
On the home front, there was warming news as Cue Card took the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock for a third time. He was always travelling well on a course where he has seen such glory days and soon mastered the returning Gold Cup hero Coneygree to score by 15 lengths. The Colin Tizzard-trained gelding is now the remarkable winner of 15 of his 33 starts and has only stablemate Thistlecrack in front of him in the Gold Cup betting (standing at a best priced 7-1) but the race was run in very testing ground and that may well take it’s toll later in the season for a horse who will be 11 years old in January.
Last season’s Neptune Hurdle runner-up Yanworth made his reappearance in the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle over two miles and three and half furlongs at Ascot on Saturday and had to grind out a three quarter length success from Lil Rockerfella but he could well improve significantly for that first outing since March. He was given a quote of 8-1 for the World Hurdle but it may be better to hold fire until his stamina is checked out in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot next month.