Following the New Year’s Day meeting at Cheltenham, January was shaping up to be a sumptuous feast for National Hunt fans and on today on the second Saturday of the month we had high quality fare from Chepstow and Sandown.
In the 2nd race at Chepstow, several Triumph Hurdle contenders were in action including the 1st and 2nd favourites Sam Winner and Smad Place. However, it was progressive Marsh Warbler who took the spoils, giving trainer Brian Ellison his first Grade 1 winner. Second was Houblon Des Obeaux with Smad Place 3rd and Sam Winner 4th. The winner did it well and is now vying for favouritism with Sam Winner at a general 10/1. With regard to Friday’s opener at the Cheltenham Festival it should be noted that the trainer stated that the winner was well suited by the soft ground.
BBC Sporting Personality of the Year made it a full set of Nationals when bagging the Welsh version on Synchronised for Jonjo O’Neill. Even watching on TV, you could see that AP really wanted this, gritting his teeth all the way up the straight and throwing his mount into the fences.
At Sandown, Banjaxed Girl to the opening Listed Mares Hurdle under Sam Twiston-Davies for his father Nigel. She’s a general 14/1 chance (from 20/1) for the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle on the Festival Tuesday. Minella Class lived up to his name when taking the 32Red Hurdle (Tolworth) for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty. Six Cheltenham Festival winners have won this with Forest Sun and Noland winning the Supreme, French Holly and Monsignor, the 2m 5f novice race, currently Neptune Novices Hurdle, and Upgrade and Snow Drop winning the Triumph. Unbeaten in 2 races over hurdles, Minella Class could be aimed at either the Supreme or the Neptune and was halved in odds in both races to around 12/1. Cornas took the competitive 2 mile handicap chase. Several of this field could well show up in the Grand Annual on the closing day of the Festival.
In the finale, Mille Chief hosed up under a huge weight to put himself forward as a possible Champion Hurdle contender after taking in the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury. Hurdling fluently and travelling well he is finally delivering on the high hopes connections have always held for him. He’s best priced 33/1 with Corals and Betfred.