Some very informative racing to look back on this week as thoughts temporarily turn to the Grand National meeting starting on April 6.
Just A Par was on a going day as he came from well off the pace to land the veterans chase at Newbury for Paul Nicholls, although whether the moody 10 year old can repeat the effort in the National is a moot point.
Nicholls has a live contender for one of the other races over the big Aintree fences in Warriors Tale, who looks on course for the Topham Trophy after bounding to victory later on the Newbury card.
The horse hasn’t truly built on the promise of his early career but time is still on his side and he could land a big pot this spring.
Another contender for the Topham is Thomas Crapper, who landed the feature race at the Berkshire venue when capitalising on a good handicap mark to slam his rivals by a wide margin. However, the suspicion is that this was his big day.
Nicholls had a couple of decent horses up at Kelso for their big raceday but the master of Ditcheat was sent back south with his tail between his legs as all six races were won by northern-based trainers.
Mount Mews has long been considered as something special by his modest handler Malcolm Jefferson, a view that had been backed up by the six-year-old’s performances on the track.
Surprisingly beaten at short odds in January, the son of Presenting wasn’t certain to relish the heavy conditions on Saturday but like many high quality horses he seems to act on any ground and he demolished his three rivals in the Premier Hurdle.
Jefferson saddled Cyrus Darius to win one of the big novice hurdles at Aintree two years ago and Mount Mews looks even better than his stablemate did at this point in their careers. He is being aimed at the same race and must not be opposed.
Definitly Red was an impressive winner of the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster and as consequence will look well handicapped when he lines up for the Grand National.
He has always looked a smart chaser in the making and he has all the attributes you would associate with a National contender.
However, the one concern is that all his best form has come in quite small fields. It could be just a coincidence, but the hustle and bustle of Aintree may not be up his street.
Last year’s Grimthorpe winner and subsequent National second The Last Samuri chased home Definitly Red this time but this looked a perfect prep race for the big one next month.
Irish trainer Willie Mullins worked some of his horses at Leopardstown on Sunday in preparation for Cheltenham but things didn’t go quite as smoothly as planned.
Bellshill’s tilt at the RSA Chase is in the balance after he fell at the first in his schooling session, while current JLT Chase favourite Yorkhill failed to impress in his workout.
Mullins is expected to give the big chestnut more practice before sending him across the Irish Sea this time next week.