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Cheltenham Festival Notebook

Newbury’s Super Saturday card went ahead on heavy ground and may have provided punters with more questions than answers. Smad Place was the biggest market mover after accounting for Sam Winner by two lengths in the gathering gloom at the Berkshire track.

Alan King’s stable is starting to send out winners again and the grey, placed in two World Hurdles, showed that he is a serious force over fences with a battling display. He is now 7-1 favourite for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham festival with the runner-up priced at 16-1.

King also has a decent two-miler in Balder Succes who proved that his Sandown running was all wrong when winning the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick. He was in front a long way from home but still had enough left in the straight to repel Brick Red by three and a half lengths.

Balder Success is now 16-1 for the Arkle in which King also has impressive Doncaster winner Valdez (10-1). Dodging Bullets was just denied by Module in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase but remains on course for the Arkle and is 5-1 second favourite.

Al Ferof looks doubtful for the Gold Cup after floundering in the ground behind Harry Topper in the Denman Chase. The winner will only run at Cheltenham if the going is similarly testing.

On a largely frustrating day for the Nicholls stable, Calipto was the shining light with a comfortable success in the opener. He is now 8-1 co-favourite of three with Le Rocher and Ivan Grozny who runs in Ireland on Sunday.

The winner of the Betfair Hurdle eluded most punters as 33-1 shot Splash Of Ginge thwarted gambles on Dell’ Arca and Irish Saint. The winner paid a complement to Irving who had beaten him by six lengths at Ascot but was pulled out of this race due to the ground.

Glens Melody recovered from a bad blunder at the second last to confirm the form with Mischievous Milly in the Mares’ Hurdle at Warwick. The pair could clash for a third time this season in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in which Quevega will be seeking a record sixth consecutive victory.

Perhaps the best news for punters this weekend was that Champion Chaser Sprinter Sacre is making good progress and could defend his title in March. His next big test will be on 22nd February when he gallops at Kempton along with My Tent Or Yours and Bobs Worth.