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Cheltenham options open for Warwick and Kempton winners

There were plenty of Cheltenham festival clues on a busy weekend of trials at Kempton and Warwick. The Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle was billed as an examination of the credentials of David Pipe’s The Liquidator but he ran a lifeless race, reminiscent of Dynaste’s disappointing effort in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

It was left to the Nicky Henderson duo to fight out the finish with Tony McCoy forcing Royal Boy ahead of Josses Hill on the run-in. Both horses are now in to 12-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with The Liquidator pushed out to 20-1.

The current market leader is Vautour who collected a Grade 2 prize in workmanlike fashion at Punchestown. The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old only had three-quarters of a length to spare over Western Boy after being headed briefly on the run-in.

Perhaps the most impressive performance by a novice was that of Deputy Dan at Warwick. Oliver Sherwood’s son of Westerner had nine lengths in hand of Masters Hill after Rathvinden crashed out three from home.

Deputy Dan is now 10-1 for the Neptune although Sherwood has stated that he will only run in that race if the going is testing. He will also be entered for the longer Albert Bartlett Hurdle.

Goodwood Mirage overcame some woeful hurdling to get up on the line on his debut for Jonjo O’Neill. He is now 25-1 for the Triumph Hurdle but he will certainly have to brush up on his hurdling technique if he is to justify his 380,000 October sales price tag.

The eye-catching chasing performance of the day came from Shotgun Paddy in the 3m5f Grade 3 Classic Chase at Warwick. Emma Lavelle’s novice was low at some of his fences but clearly has bottomless stamina and galloped on to deprive the veteran Carruthers.

The National Hunt Chase is thought his most likely festival objective and a tilt at the Aintree Grand National has not been ruled out. Captain Chris again showed his liking for Kempton with a fluent victory after Irish raider Twinlight blundered away his chance.

The Coral Cup is a possible target for Lanzarote Hurdle winner Saphir Du Rheu who defied a hefty 16lbs rise under Harry Derham. The grey is likely to be upped in class for his next race with Paul Nicholls already excited about sending him over fences next season.