Cheltenham 2020 countdown: A 20/1 dark horse is lurking in the novice division for the Festival

Time to start putting the clues together, lads.



Fiddlerontheroof a leading Cheltenham player

The manner in which Fiddlerontheroof and Jeremys Flame spread-eagled a field containing several other promising sorts that had been well bunched turning for home suggests it was a strong renewal of the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last Saturday.

That opinion is also backed up by the time.

The race provided some much-needed clarity in the British novice hurdling division, the level of form not dissimilar to that achieved by subsequent Cheltenham Festival winners Yorkhill and Summerville Boy in recent years.

The Colin Tizzard-trained Fiddlerontheroof’s strength in the betting prior to this assignment was almost as taking as his performance, his backers never having an ounce of worry as the six-year-old powering clear on the run-in without jockey Robbie Power having to pick up his whip.

He has the option of either the Supreme or the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival – he is unlikely to be seen out before then.

He’d be a leading player in either while still open to further improvement as a hurdler.


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Cash Back shows Arkle credentials

Cash Back was seemingly the second string of Willie Mullins’ two runners, based on jockey bookings and according to the betting, but there was nothing second-rate about his performance in a novice chase at Naas on Sunday.

He produced a dominant display to make it two from two over fences, and is clearly already a better chaser than hurdler.

The purpose with which he travelled and his fluent jumping was impressive for one so inexperienced over fences, and he readily put distance between himself and his rivals from two out, looking well worth his place in graded company next time.

Cash Back looks an out-and-out two-miler, and the bookmakers cut him to a general 14/1 for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Connections may be tempted to test the water and run him in the Irish version at the upcoming Dublin Racing Festival next, though the Flyingbolt Chase at Navan is another option.

Whichever route he takes, he seems sure to go on improving.


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Keep an eye on ‘dark horse’ Asterion Forlonge

Asterion Forlonge cost connections £290,000 after winning a point in early 2018 and, from what we have seen on both of his starts this season, he is a horse with plenty of ability.

He had to work harder than odds of ‘4/1 on’ would suggest when winning a bumper at Thurles in November, but he was most impressive on his hurdling debut at Naas last Sunday.

He travelled strongly and drew clear from two out after being headed earlier.

Trainer Willie Mullins stated afterwards that Asterion Forlonge had an easy time of it at home while not making the track last season.

So expect him to be busy pre-Cheltenham with a possible run at the Dublin Racing Festival.

He can be backed at 33/1 for the Supreme and 20/1 for the Ballymore.

You would imagine the latter race would be more realistic given the stamina in his pedigree and, given he ran to a pretty high level for a hurdling debutant, those odds are appealing.

*Prices for the Cheltenham Festival are still at the ante-post stage

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What do you think?