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Punters put faith in Irish Saint after Ascot victory

Despite the heavy going, there were plenty of Cheltenham hopefuls on display at Ascot and Haydock this weekend. Whilst Sire De Grugy and Melodic Rendezvous grabbed the headlines, it was Irish Saint that had punters dipping into the ante-post market.

Having already slashed the French import to 14-1 from 33-1 for the Betfair Hurdle, Coral were forced to cut him to 10-1 by late afternoon. Trainer Paul Nicholls already has the ante-post favourite in Irving but it seems highly likely that Irish Saint will run at Newbury under a penalty.

Noel Fehily had the race won a long way from home and his winning margin of 11 lengths could easily have been doubled. Connections felt that his improvement was down to getting a clear sight of his hurdles after being buried in midfield in the Ladbroke previously.

Sire De Grugy continues to make hay in the absence of Sprinter Sacre and cruised to victory in the Clarence House Chase. The chestnut’s task was made easier by the fall of market rival Somersby but he still impressed Coral sufficiently to be cut to 11-4 for the Champion Chase.

Melodic Rendezvous returned to his best by beating Ptit Zig in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock. He had pulled muscles when running poorly in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle but will probably take his chance at Cheltenham.

He is now priced at 20-1 and his chance will be increased if the going is on the soft side in March. There appeared to be no excuses for Ptit Zig in second and he was eased to 40-1.

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Trial at Haydock brought a similar muted response from bookmakers after the highly-touted Un Temps Pour Tout was beaten by Zamdy Man. David Pipe blamed some moderate hurdling for his horse’s defeat but he remains on target for the festival.

If there was a Cheltenham festival winner on show at Haydock on Saturday it may well have been Taquin Du Seuil. Jonjo O’Neill has always held this horse in high regard and he eased to a 17-length success under Tony McCoy.

His festival target is yet to be decided by Coral price him at 8-1 for the JLT Novices Chase and 12-1 for the RSA Chase.