Timeform: Top Notch lived up to his name on Saturday

The Timeform team review the weekend's racing, including a look at Top Notch. Felix Desjy, Winter Escape and Calett Mad...


Top Notch lives up to his name

Kempton’s feature was the heinously competitive Lanzarote Hurdle, though it was the listed chase 35 minutes earlier on the card which could prove to be more informative.

That race was won by Top Notch, who switched back to fences having produced a fine effort to finish third on reappearance in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last month.

His performance to defeat Black Corton by five lengths on Saturday was a high-class one, and he’s an interesting contender for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in March.

He’s likely to head to the Ascot Chase next month, a race he was below form in last season, and that run may tell us more about his chances.

Moscow Flyer may not produce clues we’ve become accustomed to

Considering that four of the last five winners of Sunday’s Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown have gone on to go off as favourite for the Supreme Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this year’s renewal would be a prime source for clues for the spring.

However, all four of those winners were Rich Ricci-owned and Willie Mullins-trained, and with Ricci having no representation this time around, it was Gordon Elliott’s Gigginstown-owned Felix Desjy who prevailed with a five length success. It was a useful performance, though this renewal wasn’t as strong as some other recent ones.

Felix Desjy’s positive tactics mean he will be an interesting inclusion in the Supreme – which connections have confirmed will be his target – though he would need to find more to have a significant chance of winning Cheltenham’s curtain-opener.

Winter Escape roars into Festival contention

Considering his fragility earlier in his career, particularly during his time in the UK with Alan King, Winter Escape had perhaps become something of a forgotten figure since joining Aiden Anthony Howard during the summer, but he has quietly been getting on with his work since that switch, and has now rattled off a hat-trick of novice wins, most recently in the Grade 3 Total Event Rental Novice Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.

It was an impressive victory, beating the short-priced favourite A Plus Tard by just over two lengths, and proved to be one of the best performances in novice chases on either side of the Irish Sea all season.

He’s now won two Grade 3 contests on the bounce, and it’s likely we’ll see him in a top level contest sooner or later, in which this lightly-raced eight-year-old can test his credentials ahead of the spring festivals.

One To Back Next Time

Calett Mad has thrived for the step up to marathon trips so far this season, finishing a fine second in the Scottish Borders National at Kelso last month, before once again filling the runner-up spot in the Classic Chase at Warwick on Saturday.

He looked the winner at one point before the effort of getting into things from well back seemingly took its toll late on, and it was a career-best effort over fences.

A seven-year-old, he’s still a relative youngster in this sphere, and he is likely to become a fixture in the top staying handicaps for a while to come.

He would have leading claims if taking up his entry in the listed Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster (registered as the Great Yorkshire Chase) at the end of the month.

We’re already NRNB on selected races at Cheltenham

What do you think?