Some cracking action over the weekend although Cheltenham pointers were thin on the ground with the Festival now just over two weeks away.
Master Blueyes produced the most eye-catching performance when slamming his rivals in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton earning himself a tilt at the Triumph Hurdle a fortnight on Friday.
Alan King’s grey has taken his time to acclimatise to the winter game but the trainer reported afterwards that the horse had been working very well in recent days and a bigger run was expected.
Master Blueyes is set to come up against one of the Festival bankers in Defi Du Seuil, but is now a best-priced 10/1 chance for the juvenile crown and on this evidence is a cast-iron each-way bet.
Nicky Henderson didn’t have a great weekend, with Charlie Parcs falling two out in the Adonis where jockey Barry Geraghty picked up injuries that will rule him out of the Festival.
But his novice hurdler River Wylde has been quietly progressive this season and he announced himself as a potential Supreme Novice Hurdle candidate by breezing to victory in the Dovecote.
His winning time was four seconds quicker than that recorded by Master Blueyes and he is a top-priced 16/1 for the Supreme, although he could be more of an Aintree horse and may be kept fresh for the National meeting in April.
I was at Newcastle on Saturday to see Mysteree land a gruelling Eider Chase where only seven of the 18 runners finished the race.
Sadly my selection Alto Des Mottes came down at the first fence, but hopefully the money is only lent and he is one to bear in mind when stamina is at a premium.
Ballybolley made an eye-catching return to action after taking the winter off, fading into third place in the 2m4f handicap chase.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’s eight-year-old simply cannot operate on ground this soft, so it was surprising to see him backed into favouritism.
He is a different horse on good going and is handicapped to win again in the right conditions.
One horse that does love the mud is Zamdy Man, and he defeated a useful yardstick in The Dutchman at the Tyneside venue.
It’s unlikely Zamdy Man will go up in the handicap for this success but he’s a classy horse and looks weighted to win again when the ground is testing.
The best performance of the weekend by some distance though came on Sunday, when Camping Ground trounced six rivals in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell over 2m3f on his first run for Gary Moore.
The strapping seven-year-old ran in last year’s Champion Hurdle but was outpaced over the minimum trip, while the trainer quickly scotched thoughts of running in this season’s World Hurdle owing to a lack of stamina.
It’s hard to know where he’ll go next, but he’s still young enough to make into a very useful chaser next season.
Earlier on the Fontwell card, Kilcrea Vale won nicely despite a drop back in trip and he is one to look out for if he runs at Cheltenham, even more so if he is held back for Aintree in April.