Call Me Lord, for trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey James Bowen, landed the Grade 2 Unibet International Hurdle at the weekend to put himself on course for a possible crack at the Champion Hurdle back at Cheltenham on March 10th.

Pentland Fancied to Improve After Strong Seasonal Bow

Having spent most of the week hovering around the 4/1 mark in the ante post market with stablemate Pentland Hills expected to go off favourite, a few shrewd types were on Call Me Lord as the race approached and his price shrunk markedly before the off, the six-year-old being the 2/1 market leader as the tapes went up.

Live outsider Elixir De Nutz led the way early with Call Me Lord rather keen in behind, as was Pentland Hills in fact who was returning to the track to face the big boys after a perfect juvenile campaign last season.

Both Henderson horses challenged at the last, but while the inexperienced four-year-old faded out of contention a little, Call Me Lord stayed on well up the hill to bypass Ballyandy and the well-fancied Ch’tibello to score by just a neck.

Given that he’s only a four-year-old and was giving away weight on his seasonal bow, bookies were still more impressed with Pentland Hills who is now a general 8/1 shot for the Champion Hurlde, Call Me Lord being available at up to 16/1.

Cogry Takes High Quality BetVictor Handicap Chase

The two-day International meeting got going on Friday and the first horse to impress was Nicky Henderson’s Pym, the six-year-old jumping very well to land the 3m1½f Novices’ Chase. In a close betting heat, nobody dominated before the off and with two major contenders having refused or fell, bookies again weren’t too impressed by the performance.

Pym remains a 25/1 shot for the RSA Chase at the Festival, but he could do little more than win in the style that he did and there’s doubtless more improvement to come from him.

The feature race on Friday was the BetVictor Handicap Chase over 3m2f where all those expected to be prominent ran well, leading to the assessment that this form is rock solid.

The race was taken narrowly by Cogry, just ahead of Rock The Kasbah with the well-fancied West Approach in third. Singlefarmpayment and the strongly backed favourite Onefortheroadtom were next and it would be no surprise to see several of the horses involved here winning next time out.

Easyland, a French raider, proved he wasn’t hopping over the Channel for nothing the Cross Country Chase when, having been backed down to 5/2 favourite, he stormed clear to win by seven lengths making himself the new clear 5/1 second-favourite at the Festival behind Tiger Roll.

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Mister Fisher Stakes Festival Claim

The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, a handicap chase over 2m4½f, was taken on Saturday by 7/1 shot Warthog in battling style and unlike in Friday’s feature handicap, the runners here were strung out on the by now soft going and it seems some of those not doing as well as expected, such as Not That Fuisse, Good Man Pat, Brelan D’As and Knocknanuss can easily be given another chance.

As well as the wins for Warthog and Call Me Lord, there were some important trial successes on Saturday’s card too. Botox Has, an 8/11 shot, was an unsurprising winner of the Triumph Hurdle Trial to open up the day’s action but layers once again are not too taken with him, keeping him at around 25/1 and 33/1 mark for the big one.

Mister Fisher has been moved into around 14/1 for the JLT Novices’ after landing the Ryman Novices’ Chase with he and runner-up Good Boy Bobby some 15 lengths ahead of Beakstown and in the Bristol Novices’ Hurdle, a trial for the Albert Bartlett Novices’, 14/1 shot Redford Road got home just ahead of local favourite Champagne Well.