Saturday’s four-runner Denman Chase may have appeared to be a penalty kick for Clan des Obeaux, but the seven-year-old very much produced a Panenka performance, making last year’s JLT runner-up Terrefort look distinctly second rate with a smooth 11-length victory.
Plenty will argue that his success – as a 5/2-on favourite – didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, but it served a purpose in backing up his credentials as a top-level performer, after he burst onto the scene when winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
While the 3m 2f of the Cheltenham Gold Cup may stretch his stamina to the limit, he’s very much at the top table now.
It Cheltenham doesn’t work out, he’s still at the head of the list for the Betway Bowl at Aintree and beyond.
Remember the (Cyr) name
While it was made to share the spotlight this year, the Grade 1 Ascot Chase very much stole the headlines.
It was won in stunning fashion by Paul Nicholls’ Cyrname, who was trying Grade 1 company for the first time this season, though you wouldn’t have known. He produced one of the best performances in the race this century to blitz a high-class field, blowing away last year’s winner Waiting Patiently to score by 17 lengths.
Cyrname doesn’t have an entry for Cheltenham as it stands, mainly in part due to concerns about his ability to go left handed, but he’s been catapulted into joint-favouritism in some lists with Min for the Ryanair Chase on the back of that performance, and it seems likely that his connections will reconsider their plans.
Tiger roars to the front of the National queue
It takes an extraordinary horse to win any renewal of the Grand National, but Tiger Roll continues to surprise.
He raised a few eyebrows when cruising clear to win the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday as a 25/1 outsider – a race which was largely considered to be a warm up for a bid to win back-to-back renewals of the Cross Country event at Cheltenham.
He’s now the clear 10/1 favourite for the Grand National, and while that race is the priority, it’s very difficult to look past him recording a fourth Cheltenham Festival success next month.
As for Aintree, well, plenty have tried (and failed) to emulate Red Rum, but if he finds himself setting off with anywhere near the 11st weight that’s been given to him by the handicapper, there won’t be many previous winners who will head to the first with a better chance of doubling up.
Back the Blak’
On the subject of the Grand National, Blaklion finished a commendable fifth in the Pertemps qualifier at Haydock on Saturday.
Aintree is likely to be his cup final, and he’s giving the impression that he’s quietly building himself up for a big run, shaping well on his last two starts over hurdles.
He never really landed a blow at Haydock, but the three-mile trip was an insufficient test of stamina, and the Pertemps circuit has proven to be a popular warm up path for National contenders over the last few years.
The 2013 winner Pineau de Re finished third in the final at the Cheltenham Festival a month before scoring at Aintree over the bigger obstacles.
Blaklion endured a hard race on the same card in Haydock’s Grand National Trial last year, and connections have seemingly learned their lesson from that. The 33/1 on offer for the April 6 showpiece is looking more and more attractive.