Santini, Paisley Park and Cepage were all shortened for the Gold Cup, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase respectively at the Cheltenham Festival after they were all successful on an entertaining Trials Day at the Gloucestershire venue on Saturday.
Henderson Wins Cotswold Chase with Santini
Having run a cracker when second in the RSA Chase at the Festival last year and winning his only start since, Nicky Henderson’s Santini was a warm order for the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase as he looked to book his place in the Gold Cup line-up on March 13th.
Sent off the 13/8 favourite ahead of Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai at 9/4, the eight-year-old sat handy under Nico de Boinville and tracked the leaders early.
Having hit the front three from home in the 3 mile, 1½-furlong event, Santini was narrowly headed having hit the penultimate fence but stayed on best of all up the hill to record a comfortable enough three-and-a-half length success at the line.
The Cheltenham hill was arguably the undoing of Bristol De Mai once again which is something that will continue to not endear him to Gold Cup backers, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse being quoted as big as 40/1 to go two places better than last year in the Gold Riband while Santini is no bigger than 7/1 now with the major firms.
Willie Mullins’ pair Kemboy and last year’s winner Al Boum Photo continue to fight it out at the head of affairs at general 6/1 and 4/1 respectively with at least one of them potentially running at the Dublin Racing Festival next month.
Paisley Park and Cepage Shorten for Respective Festival Events
Last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle champion Paisley Park had an interrupted preparation for his attempt at a second Cleeve Hurdle, though Emma Lavelle’s stable star was a short-priced 4/6 favourite anyway to get the job done once again.
With a major threat coming from If The Cap Fits (11/4) on paper, this was no forgone conclusion for most punters but Paisley Park himself clearly didn’t read that particular script, streaking away close home to score pretty comfortably from 7/1 shot Summerville Boy by 1¼ lengths.
Paisley Park is now a general 4/5 and 8/11 shot to repeat last year’s huge success, with the rejuvenated Summerville Boy third in at a best-priced 10/1.
While the likes of Frodon, A Plus Tard and Min weren’t overly threatened in the Ryanair Chase market after Saturday’s races, Cheltenham Trophy Handicap winner Cepage at least made some impact in coming down to a general 33/1 after an all-out win from course and distance regular Spiritofthegames and the likeable Lalor.
Whether he goes for that race now or sticks to handicaps remains unclear, but Venetia Williams’ runner will now go up a fair bit from his mark of 154 making graded races the more likely option for him in future.
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Triumph Hurdle and Ballymore Novices’ Markets Relatively Unmoved
The Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle trial was our first race of the day and it went to 6/1 chance Galahad Quest for Nick Williams and Harry Cobden, the pair taking the Grade 2 by a length from Night Edition although layers clearly weren’t too impressed with the performance with the juvenile still available to back at 40/1 on Monday morning.
Sandwiched in between the Cotswold Chase and the Cleeve Hurdle was a Grade 2 trial for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and that was taken by Colin Tizzard and Robbie Power with their six-year-old Harry Senior at 4/1.
Well supported on the day, Harry Senior stayed on nicely for a convincing win over 6/4 favourite King Roland and with Protektorat and House Island finishing third and fourth, the form of the race certainly has a solid look about it.
Harry Senior is as big as 20/1 for the Ballymore now at the Cheltenham Festival, a price that many will think rather underestimates his ability having proven himself in no uncertain terms on the track at the first time of asking.