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Tiger Roll may have been well below his best when bidding to complete the hat-trick in the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival – he was short of peak fitness and found the ground too testing – but Easysland still deserves plenty of credit for the hugely impressive victory that extended his winning sequence to seven.
EASYSLAND is only a six-year-old, and his 17-length success at the Festival suggested that he has the potential to dominate the division for years to come. He is already a 6/4 shot with Paddy Power to retain his crown in March. It will be a surprise were his claims to take a knock on Friday given that he receives 4lb from old rival Tiger Roll, who is unlikely to be at his very best until tackling the Grand National in April.
There are still plenty of cards to be played in the juvenile division, but HELL RED was an impressive winner on his first start for Paul Nicholls at Chepstow last month – looking like one of the most exciting four-year-olds seen this season, earning quotes of 20/1 for the Triumph.
There probably isn’t a great deal of substance to the form, even if the fifth has since won. But, the style of success cannot be knocked, with the fluency of Hell Red’s jumping an especially pleasing aspect of the performance. The Grade 2 at Cheltenham on Saturday is a race that Nicholls tends to target with his better juveniles – he has won it four times in the last 10 years – and it will be interesting to see how high this French recruit can climb.
FUSIL RAFFLES looked an extremely exciting prospect when winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton and a Grade 1 at Punchestown as a juvenile. He also looked set for a big season last year after making a successful reappearance in the Elite Hurdle, for all he had to dig deeper than expected to prevail.
That positive profile meant he was sent off joint favourite with stablemate Epatante for the Christmas Hurdle, but he ran too badly to be true, pulling up after folding tamely. His effort in the Champion Hurdle wasn’t much better, which meant Fusil Raffles started out over fences this season with questions to answer.
He got back on track, though, with an encouraging success at Uttoxeter and then posted a wide-margin win at Cheltenham, over the course and distance of Saturday’s contest. That race rather fell apart, but it would be a mistake to underestimate what Fusil Raffles achieved as he posted an extremely impressive time that compared well to what Rouge Vif registered earlier on the card. Connections will be hoping he can build on his excellent start over fences and advance his Arkle claims, for which he is 14/1 at the time of writing.
DEFI DU SEUIL fluffed his lines when presented with what looked a penalty kick at the Cheltenham Festival, and connections will be hoping he can get back on the up in the Shloer Chase. Defi du Seuil had enjoyed an excellent campaign prior to the Festival, winning the Shloer, Tingle Creek and Clarence House to show that he is a top-class two-mile chaser.
The Champion Chase looked to be at his mercy when Altior and Chacun Pour Soi were ruled out shortly before the race, but Defi du Seuil was never travelling with his usual verve and beat only one of his four rivals home. It would be dangerous to dismiss the prospect of him remaining a force at the highest level on the back of one poor effort, however, and he has an impressive overall body of work to call on. Paddy Power are a top price of 14/1 for the Champion Chase.
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