Sometimes the most obvious outcomes to races are hiding in plain sight and there were three big race winners on Saturday who must not be overlooked for their big Spring targets.
Cue Card produced a performance that screamed “I’m still here” as he trounced his rivals in the Ascot Chase in the manner of a horse that is by no means a spent force.
Many still argue that he would have won the Gold Cup last season had he not taken an uncharacteristic fall three from home, and he’s done very little wrong this season.
Defeat to stablemate Thistlecrack on Boxing Day had the doubters out in force but he clearly wasn’t himself that day for several reasons, and we saw at the weekend what he is still capable of.
With Thistlecrack and another stable companion Native River hogging the limelight in the past few weeks, Cue Card remains the somewhat forgotten horse in the Gold cup field, and at 6/1 he looks a very solid each-way bet to lift the roof on the final day of the Festival.
Cue Card remains the somewhat forgotten horse in the Gold cup field, and at 6/1 he looks a very solid each-way bet to lift the roof on the final day of the Festival.
At Wincanton, Yanworth cemented his position towards the front of the Champion Hurdle with a workmanlike victory in the Elite Hurdle.
The manner of his win failed to set many pulses racing, yet here is a horse that will relish the stiffer test of stamina that Cheltenham will provide. He’ll improve for fitness, and it mustn’t be forgotten how good a trainer Alan King is at producing a horse cherry-ripe for the big day.
At a best-priced 9/2 he also looks a fantastic each-way bet for the big race on the opening day at Cheltenham and there’s no other horse I’d prefer to have on my side as the runners face the climb to the line.
The other one to really float my boat at the weekend was Vieux Lion Rouge, who is now a worthy favourite for the Grand National on April 8 following a gutsy display in Haydock’s Grand National Trial.
David Pipe’s eight-year-old finished seventh in the big race last year but he looks a much stronger individual now, and showed real guts and stamina for the second time this season to beat a good horse in Blaklion.
The National seems to attract better quality horses with each year that passes and that means Vieux Lion Rouge will carry a terrific racing weight of 10st 7lb, off a mark just 3lb higher than his winning perch on Saturday.
He may be the ‘obvious’ choice but there won’t be a horse with better qualifications for the job and if nothing emerges from Cheltenham I can see him going off at around the 5/1 mark on the day, so the current double figure prices represent value.
There was much talk about Acapella Bourgeois’s victory in the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan on Sunday, where he was gifted a long lead that he never looked like relinquishing.
However, the time didn’t look anything special and he’ll find things a lot harder in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, especially if the ground continues to dry out.