Cheltenham Festival clues at Naas, Plumpton and Sandown
David Metcalf | January 4, 2016
Coral look at some of the key performances in a cracking New Year weekend of action at Naas, Plumpton and Sandown and the impact they have had on the ante post markets for the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
Arkle hope L’ami Serge saunters to success on chasing debut
L’ami Serge is 10/1 joint third favourite with Coral for the Arkle Challenge Trophy after sauntering to a facile wide margin success on his chasing debut at Plumpton.
The Nicky Hendrson trained gelding, who was a top-class novice hurdler last season when landing the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle and finishing an unlucky in-running fourth to Douvan in the Supreme at the Cheltenham Festival, made light of desperately wet conditions to make all and winn unchallenged by 27 lengths from Doctor Harper before the meeting was abandoned.
Apart from jumping slightly left on occasions, the six-year-old never put a foot wrong and looks a very exciting recruit to the chasing ranks.
Having been backed from 14/1 into 12s for the Arkle prior to the race, L’ami Serge was trimmed a further two points into 10s and looks the main danger to current red-hot odds-on 4/6 favourite Douvan if progressing as expected.
Henderson said: “I don’t suppose he’s learnt a whole lot, nor has anybody really, but we got a run into him and he’s jumped well and we got one under his belt.
“I think he was better than fourth in the Supreme. He won the Tolworth. He had a trapped epiglottis. We had that done so it curtailed his season. He’s potentially a very good chaser in the making and I suppose the Arkle is the natural route and we might walk into Douvan again.”
Shaneshill cut for JLT glory
Shaneshill is now clear favourite for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival, after making it 2-2 over the larger obstacles in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase at Naas.
The Willie Mullins trained gelding was sent off an odds-on 4/7 favourite to land the spoils following his success at Thurles five weeks ago, and gave his supporters some anxious moments before beating Sizing Codleco by 4 1/2 lengths.
After being far from fluent at the third, Shaneshill made a bad mistake and pecked on landing two from home.
Jockey Ruby Walsh did well to stay in the plate and gather him up quickly, and Shaneshill then produced a far better jump at the last before staying on well to score with plenty in hand.
It was a good performance in the circumstances over a 2m trip which is arguably too short, and Shaneshill looks sure to appreciate the extra four furlongs in the JLT.
Coral cut Shaneshill to 6/1 (from 8s) for the JLT immediatley after the race, but that price was quickly snapped up and he is now a rock-solid 5/1 favourite.
Mullins said: “He gave me a fright at the second last and again at the last. Ruby really asked him at the last, and at least he was slick under pressure.
“I was surprised how much speed he showed against good horses, and I’m very happy with him. He might just need a bit more practice on a racetrack.”
Bellshill hardens for Neptune after Lawlor’s Horel success
Bellshill is 4/1 favourite (from 5s) for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, after completing a hat-trick over the obstacles in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas.
The Willie Mullins six-year-old beat 66/1 outsider Last Encounter by five lengths, but was more workmanlike than impressive in getting the better of a rival rated 23lb his inferior.
Jockey Ruby Walsh was content to track the leaders, and after a slight mistake two from home Bellshill cruised to the front approaching the last.
However, Bellshill was once again far from fluent at the final flight and had to be driven out on the run-in to get the job done.
Although Bellshill clearly has a huge engine, his hurdling is far from slick and that has to be a concern for me come the Festival in March.
Winning trainer Mullins said: “He might need to brush up his jumping a bit. It has been fantastic up to now, and I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was due to idling in front on that very testing ground.
“He’s progressing nicely and has a huge cruising speed. He’ll probably go next for the Deloitte (Novice Hurdle) at Leopardstown.”
Yorkhill toughs it out to land Tolworth
Yorkhill maintained his unbeaten record over the obstacles with a smooth success in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, but his trainer Mullins is keeping options open as regards to which race he will tackle at the Festival.
The six-year-old beat O O Seven by 2 1/4 lengths, but was value for more than the winning margin.
After being held-up in fourth place, Yorkhill breezed into contention two from home.
Jockey Walsh sat motionless approaching the final flight, and although Yorkhill did not find as much as expected on the run-in he got the job done in good style on atrocious ground.
There was plenty to like about the way in which Yorkhill went about his business, and he showed that he has enough speed for 2m having made a winning debut over hurdles at Punchsetown over 2m 4f.
Mullins said: “We’ll just see what horses are going well come the festival and what jockeys are available. There’s no trouble staying when he did what he did there, but he has always shown us plenty of speed at home and the Supreme is certainly not out of the equation at this stage.”
Coral make Yorkhill their 6/1 second favourite (from 10s) for both the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
For more of our comprehensive Cheltenham coverage, check out Coral’s dedicated page on all things relating to Prestbury Park and the Festival.