Cheltenham’s Trials day on Saturday could well have featured several contenders who will go on to glory at national hunt’s four-day extravaganza in March. Here are the horses who caught the eye as possible festival heroes in just over six weeks time:
Following several near misses in major handicaps at Cheltenham, Cepage, from the Venetia Williams stable, earned a well deserved victory when running out a game winner of the Paddy Power 45 Sleeps To Cheltenham Trophy.
The handicapper is unlikely to do the eight-year-old any favours however when reassessing the Saddler Maker gelding. A revised mark in the region of 156 is likely to make things tough for Cepage, so the one to take from the race could be the third horse home, Lalor.
After a few disappointing efforts, the son of It’s Gino has returned to something like his best on his last two starts. The likely better ground at the festival could bring about yet more improvement, making the 40/1 available with bet365, non-runner-no-bet, for the Ryanair Chase a potentially value each-way bet.
Last season’s RSA Chase runner-up was far from impressive when scraping home on his reappearance at Sandown in November. The Milan gelding looked a totally different proposition when outstaying Bristol De Mai in the Cotswold Chase, putting himself bang in the Gold Cup picture, for which the eight-year-old is a best price 9/1 with Betfair Sportsbook.
Nicky Henderson’s exciting prospect still looked a bit novicey at times however, and may need testing conditions to produce his best. The third horse home, Top Ville Ben, travelled like the best horse in the race for a long way and could prove a lively each-way Gold Cup candidate on better ground.
The two and a quarter length winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is a best price 20/1 with Paddy Power for the final in March. Colin Tizzard’s gelding is likely to face festival ‘banker’ Envoi Allen if targeted at that race however, and looks to stand a much better chance in the three mile Albert Bartlett.
The Oscar gelding could prove even better over the longer trip, and in what looks the weakest of the three novice hurdles at the festival, makes plenty of appeal at the 12/1 on offer with Coral and Betfred
Paisley Park cemented his already strong position as hot favourite for a repeat Stayers’ Hurdle in March, when beating Summerville Boy in the Cleeve Hurdle. Emma Lavelle’s stable star is now odds on with most bookmakers for the three mile stamina test on the third day of the festival, and is sure to take plenty of beating.
The runner-up came out of the race with plenty of credit however, going down by just over a length, and unless connections of Benie Des Dieux target the race rather than the Mares’ Hurdle, Summerville Boy has to be the chief danger to the short priced favourite, and looks good each-way value at 10/1.