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Weekend racing round-up: Festival clues at Fairyhouse and Newbury

David Metcalf | November 30, 2015

Coral look at some of the key performances in a cracking weekend of action at Fairyhouse and Newbury and the impact they have had on the ante post markets for the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.

No More Heroes dazzles in Drinmore

Fairyhouse Winter Festival - Day Two - Fairyhouse Racecourse

No More Heroes is the 5/1 joint-favourite (from 8s) with Coral for the 2016 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival following a scintillating display to land the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.

The Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old followed up his debut victory over fences at Punchestown a month ago with a superb round of jumping to beat Monksland with far more in hand than the 2 1/2 length winning margin suggests.

It was a performance which oozed class over a 2m 4f trip which was arguably shorter than ideal for No More Heroes, and the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding should have even more to offer when stepped up to 3m.

Winning jockey Bryan Cooper said: “His jumping was very good and he put it to bed easily. He showed a good turn of foot and he’s going the right way. The further in trip they go, the better he’ll be. He sets the standard.”

More Of That is the other 5/1 co-favourite with Coral for the RSA. It’s then 12/1 bar the pair.

Smad puts Hennessy rivals firmly in the Place

Hennessy Gold Cup Day - Newbury Racecourse

Smad Place ran and jumped his rivals ragged to land the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, and trainer Alan King now has the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup as the ultimate target for his dashing grey.

Coral introduced the eight-year-old into the betting for chasing’s blue riband event at 14/1 after his 12 length defeat of Theatre Guide in Newbury’s richest jump race.

After racing up with the pace from flagfall, Smad Place took up the lead after the ninth fence and then never looked like relinquishing the advantage under a confident Wayne Hutchinson.

It was a most authoritative display, and Smad Place jumped impeccably throughout.

Winning trainer King said: “Smad Place really loves to be handy and measures his fences very well. He was third in a World Hurdle behind Big Buck’s as a five-year-old so stamina was not going to be an issue.

“The horse had his ears pricked and I could see from three out that none of the others were really travelling. I knew after that that he would win providing he didn’t do something silly.

“He won’t be entered for the Grand National but he will have to have an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Smad Place has his confidence back – he won’t have a lot of racing this season – one run before the Cheltenham Festival – he won’t go for the King George.”

Thistlecrack new Long Distance star

Hennessy Gold Cup Day - Newbury Racecourse

Thistlecrack emerged as a leading contender for the 2016 World Hurdle when making an impressive winning return to action in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

The Colin Tizzard-trained gelding travelled well throughout the 3m contest in the hands of jockey Tom Scudamore, and after cruising into contention two from home took up the running at the last before staying on strongly to beat Deputy Dan by six lengths.

Last year’s runner-up and reigning World Hurdle champion Cole Harden finished a further 1/2 length back in third.

There was absolutely no fluke about the victory, and the ultra-progressive Thistlecrack was cut to 7/1 joint-favourite (from 16s) with Coral for World Hurdle glory.

Winning trainer Tizzard said: “Thistlecrack has built into a big, strong horse. I told everyone he needed the run but that he might be classy enough to win anyway.

“He has jumped brilliantly and never missed a beat. I thought today would tell us whether he is good enough to go for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham and he is. He handled the ground well, although I don’t think he needs it soft. It was a brilliant performance.

“His next target is likely to be the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot next month.”

Arctic Fire too hot to handle in Hatton’s Grace

Fairyhouse Winter Festival - Day Two - Fairyhouse Racecourse

Arctic Fire was left unchanged at 8/1 by Coral for the 2016 Champion Hurdle after gaining a well-deserved first Grade 1 victory in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

The Willie Mullins trained gelding has been placed at the top level in the past behind stablemates Faugheen and Hurricane Fly, and ran a blinder behind the former when staying on strongly to be beaten just 1 1/2 lengths into second in last year’s Champion Hurdle.

On paper it looked a straightforward task for Arctic Fire who had 19lbs and upwards in hand on his rivals, and it proved that way in the race itself.

After being held-up, the six-year-old cruised into the lead between the final two flights before quickening smartly on the run-in to easily beat Alpha Des Obeaux by four lengths.

Arctic Fire’s next race is likely to be at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting, and although he is yet to beat Faugheen he seems to be improving with every run and could be a big player for Champion Hurdle honours come next March.

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