Another informative weekend as we count down to the Cheltenham Festival 2021 from March 16-19.
ADAGIO and Nassalam are both horses to be positive about after pulling 20 lengths clear of the rest in a well-run edition of the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday. The pair recorded a considerably quicker time than the winners of the two other races over course and distance on the card, which provides further substance to the form, and this represented another big step forward from Adagio to take his record over hurdles to three wins from four starts.
Held up in the early stages at Chepstow, Adagio was produced to challenge Nassalam on the long run between the final two flights and sealed matters with a flying jumping at the last. He then stayed on strongly on the run-in despite idling briefly to win by two and a half lengths.
It was a first Grade 1 success for trainer David Pipe since Moon Racer won the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in 2015, and Adagio now looks a live contender for the Triumph Hurdle at the meeting in a little over nine weeks’ time. The Gordon Elliott-trained Zanahiyr still sets the standard in this division, but Adagio may yet have more to offer given his current rate of progress and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Paul Nicholls celebrated a remarkable seven-timer across three meetings on Saturday, including a pair of Grade 2 wins at Kempton with McFabulous (Relkeel Hurdle) and Master Tommytucker (Silviniaco Conti Chase). Perhaps the most interesting of his winners with the Cheltenham Festival in mind is BARBADOS BUCK’S, who showed useful form when easily defying a double penalty to complete a hat-trick in the three-mile novice hurdle at Kempton.
🥊 A horse firmly on the upgrade
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 9, 2021
The early gallop was only steady and the first four did well to pull so far clear after the tempo only picked up from three out. Barbados Buck’s just needed to be shaken up to assert on the approach to the last, finding plenty to land the spoils by four lengths.
A strong-travelling sort, Barbados Buck’s is yet to contest a well-run race, which is just the sort of scenario that is likely to unlock further improvement. Barbados Buck’s now features prominently in the betting for the Albert Bartlett at the Festival, though he’d arguably be just as interesting if getting qualified for the Pertemps Final before then.
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SECRET REPRIEVE justified strong support for Evan Williams in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on Saturday, in the process becoming the second home-trained winner of the race in succession.
Carrying a mere 4lb penalty for his wide-margin win at the same course in early December, Secret Reprieve didn’t need to improve on that effort to follow up in straightforward fashion at the weekend. However, he still impressed with how fluently he jumped/travelled, and the longer trip was clearly no issue as he powered home on the run-in to win by three lengths.
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) January 9, 2021
State of Play and Cappa Bleu have both done well in the Grand National for the same connections, and Secret Reprieve will no doubt have that race on his agenda at some point. There shouldn’t be any hurry, though, when you consider that he is still only seven. Not many horses of that age have run in the race in recent years and the last such winner was in 1940.
There are plenty of alternatives for later this season, including the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. This form is already good enough to make the places in an average renewal of that race, with further improvement also not out of the question.
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