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Cheltenham Festival Notebook

Cheltenham clues were hard to find on a week largely spoiled by the continuing spell of miserable weather. Sandown managed to stage an all-chase card on Saturday but Oscar Whisky made heavy weather of beating just two opponents in the featured Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

He remains a 7-1 chance for the JLT Speciality Chase with his supporters clinging to the fact that he has been more impressive at Prestbury Park. Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty both felt the going was to blame for his lack lustre performance.

Saphir Du Rheu and Whisper fought out a thrilling finish to the Welsh Champion Hurdle with victory just going to the Paul Nicholls runner. The runner-up lost vital momentum with a sloppy jump at the last and could be one to bear in mind for a race like the Coral Cup.

Saphir Du Rheu is ante-post favourite for that race but Nicholls seems reluctant to commit the grey to the festival this year. He is already relishing the prospect of running him over fences and quotes for the World Hurdle are pure speculation with Big Buck’s set to run in the same colours.

Musselburgh may not seem the obvious place to look for festival clues but there were a couple of outstanding winners on Sunday’s Cheltenham Trials Day. Broughton had shown plenty of promise on his hurdling debut when second to Fox Norton at Doncaster and duly bolted up at the Scottish track.

Trainer John Ferguson has several smart recruits from the flat but believes that the former Mark Johnston-trained gelding could be one of the best. He earned a 12-1 quote for the Triumph Hurdle with his smooth five-length victory over Clarcam.

The Scottish County Hurdle looked wide open beforehand but Clever Cookie turned it into a procession as he completed a Musselburgh hat-trick. He landed some nice bets in the process and will now be entered for the Imperial Cup and the County Hurdle.

Arvika Ligeonniere remains on course for the Queen Mother Champion Chase after easily landing the odds in the Grade 2 Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown. Coral offer a standout price of 16-1 about him despite an impressive round of jumping under Ruby Walsh.