Monday St Stephens Day, we start at Kempton where it was King George day. There was a double for Alan King with Elgin who burst the bubble of Jenkins in the two mile novice hurdle. The second leg of the double was Yanworth who took the Christmas hurdle. I took on Yanworth here with The New One, I still do not regret it in spite of the result. Yanworth looked in trouble for a good portion of the race however between the last two hurdles , Yanworth picked up well. I still would not want to be with Yanworth in a Champion hurdle. There was also a double on the day for Colin Tizzard Royal Vacation took the Kauto Star Novice chase he was however fortunate as Might Bite had the race won when crashing out at the last. The second leg of the Tizzard double was Thistlecrack who took the King George in breathtaking style. It is hard to imagine how Thistlecrack could have been more impressive. Thistlecrack traveled through the race really powerful in the contest, Thistlecrack was very brave at the fences. I could see why people would see it as a negative, however I admire courage in racehorses and Thistlecrack has bags of courage as well as ability. Thistlecrack was eased down about a half a furlong out and still was a three and a half length winner. This was as good as a performance as you will see from a novice in a King George. Thistlecrack deserves to be favourite for the Gold Cup and may even go off odds on .
At Leopardstown, the two Graded races had all eyes peeled for Cheltenham Festival clues. The Juvenile hurdle saw Bapaume , Landofhopeandglory and Mega Fortune clash again having finished 1-2-3 in the Fairyhouse race at the start of December. The decisive moment came when Ruby Walsh nipped up the inside of Zig Zag on the home turn stealing a few lengths and getting first run. The first three were the same as at Fairyhouse with a different finishing order. Bapaume was one and three parts of a length to Landofhopeandglory and Mega Fortune a short head back in third staying on well. I think its clear these three horses are very good juveniles. Landofhopeandglory has now had 4 runs and may need a break to my eyes the Irish juveniles are far superior to the UK juveniles. The Racing Post novice chase a grade saw Min clash with Identity Thief, however much of this race lost much of its interest when Identity Thief pulled up hopefully he lives to fight another day.Min put this to bed easily jumping well winning by 9 lengths. A clash with Altior beckons and everybody will relish that. Min looks very good however so does Altior. Willie Mullins completed a treble on the day with Bunk Off Early who took the maiden Hurdle in great style.
At Wetherby, all eyes were on the Rowland Meyrick. The race went in really impressive style to Definitly Red who had been the subject of one of the punts of the season in the Rehearsal chase when bombing out. Definitly Red saw off Wakanda and Blaklion by seven lengths and three and a half lengths. Blaklion was advised to our members 1pt each way at (4/1).At Fontwell, there was a double for Alan King with Rainbow Dreamer and Bastien. At Huntingdon, Rather Be was a good winner for Nicky Henderson. At Market Rasen, Bandsman won the novice hurdle for Dan Skelton. The Lincolnshire national went to to Gonalstown Cloud who saw off Amiral Collonges and Godsmejudge in an excellent finish. At Sedgefield, there was a double for Malcolm Jefferson and Brian Hughes with Dubai Angel and Helmsley Lad. At Wincanton, Andrew Thornton achieved the wonderful milestone of 1,000 career winners with a double on board Somchine and Kentford Myth. Andrew Thornton deserves his success he has been a great servant to jump racing. Thornton got his bit of good fortune here as Antartica De Thaix crashed out when sure to win, leaving Kentford Myth to win easy. At Wolverhampton, Simon Dow had a double with Emenem and Forceful Appeal.
At Down Royal, there was a double for jockey JJ Slevin with Last Goodbye and Moonlone Lane. There was a double for Gordon Elliott with Broken Soul and The Storyteller. At Limerick, there was a treble for Willie Mullins on the day with Bravissimo, Miss Sapphire and Bellshill. I must admit Bellshill was really impressive in claiming the feature race defeating stablemate Haymount and the promising Diamond King with ease. Bellshill looks like he could go right to the top as a novice chaser. It was six winners across Limerick and Leopardstown for Willie Mullins.
Tuesday, we start at Chepstow where it was Welsh Grand National Day. Native River went to post the market leader for the Welsh National. Hennessy Gold Cup hero Native River produced a fantastic weight-carrying performance to win the Welsh National making the running to win by one and 3 parts of a length. Native River to me looks a gold cup contender . I can see Native River bowling along and really enjoying the Gold Cup a massive player in my view. Native River was advised to our members 2pts win at (3/1).Beg To Differ ran really well in fourth , I think Beg To Differ long term will have the Handicap chase on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival a race where he clipped heals last season. The Novices handicap chase went to Pobbles Bay in impressive style from Ibus De Rheu and Ballycross. Ibus Du Rheu was advised to our members 1pt each way at (4/1). Defi Du Seuil extended his unbeaten record over jumps to four with a wide-margin victory in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow. Defi Du Seuil was a 13 length winner , I was not over impressed I must admit. Defi Du Seuil completed a double for Richard Johnson. Aso deservedly picked up a win in the 2 mile 3 furlong handicap chase for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch.
At Kempton, there was an incredible four timer for Noel Fehily the horses were Charli Parcs, Nordic Nymph, Altior and Special Tiara. The victories of Charli Parcs and Altior formed a double for Nicky Henderson. Charli Parcs was really impressive in the juvenile hurdle winning by 8 lengths from Master Blueyes. I thought Charli Parcs was far more impressive visually then Defi Du Seuil . The brilliant Altior was back out on the track, Altior cruised to and easy victory in the Wayward Lad chase by 18 lengths. I think Altior is a very special racehorse. I personally cannot wait for the Arkle rematch with Min. I am of the opinion there are three exceptional racehorses in training right now Douvan , Thistlecrack and Altior. Special Tiara got his season back on track with a hard fought win over Sir Valentino. At Wetherby,there was a double for Dan Skelton and Harry Skelton with Oldgrangewood and Yorkist.
At Leopardstown, there was a remarkable five timer for Willie Mullins and a four timer for Ruby Walsh. The Mullins five timer consisted of Meri Devie who was a superb winner of a juvenile hurdle. Bacardys took the maiden hurdle in workmanlike fashion. Douvan was at his imperious best smashing poor old Sizing John yet again by 8 lengths. Saturnas took the the grade 1 future champions novice hurdle by two lengths from Brelade. I liked Saturnas from the start of the season he jumped poorly at Fairyhouse , he was much better here if Saturnas keeps this progression up. Saturnas could make up into a Cheltenham contender. Mullins took the bumper for the five timer with a very impressive winner in Ballyward who won by 16 lengths. The two mile handicap hurdle which can be a good guide to the (coral hurdle) went to That's A Wrap who was completing a hat trick . There were a host of horses of interest for the future in behind including Veinard, After Rain and Gladiator King. The Paddy Power Chase the feature race went in emphatic style to Noble Endeavor who ran out a comfortable winner by 3 and a half lengths. Noble Endeavor was really well backed (14/1 -6/1) the same could be said for the runner up The Crafty Butcher who went off an eye watering 11/4. At Limerick, there was another win for Willie Mullins as Some Neck won a maiden hurdle at the first time of asking by 7 lengths. Duke Cass took the novice hurdle for Karl Thornton by five and a half lengths. I think this horse can win again soon.
Wednesday, we start at Leopardstown where it was Lexus chase day. I was in attendance for one of the big days in Irish jump racing. There was a four timer on the day for Willie Mullins. The first leg of the four timer was Montablano who made a smooth start to life in Ireland under Ruby Walsh winning by two and three parts of a length from Youcannotbeserious. The second leg of the Mullins four timer was Bleu Et Rogue made a winning debut over fences having been smashed late on in the betting (11/4- 6/4). Bleu Et Rogue jumped ordinarily early on , however Bleu Et Rogue really picked up to win. Bleu Et Rogue has a serious engine. The third leg of the Mullins four timer the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle went to Vroum Vroum Mag who got it done. I am not convinced Vroum Vroum Mag is in a three miler. I think Shaneshill was going to give Vroum Vroum Mag a race when coming down at the last. I will be astonished if Vroum Vroum Mag does not run in the mares hurdle at Cheltenham. The Mullins four timer was completed by Carter McKay in the bumper.
The Lexus chase itself saw a reversal for Mullins as two horses formerly in his care Outlander and Don Poli fought out a good finish. Don Poli who got a super ride from David Mullins looked like he would win turning for home producing his famous surge from his novice days in evidence again here. Outlander produced a serious turn of foot to see Don Poki off by two and a half lengths, Djakadam was a neck back in third. Djakadam may have been feeling the effects of the John Durkan however it was Outlanders day he deserved his turn. Don Poli was advised to our members 0.5pt each way (16/1).Don Poli has shown enough here to suggest he could run a big race at a huge price in a Gold cup which will be run at a real lick. Don Poli will have to remain motivated though and that is still a doubt. Outlander surely deserves a crack at the Gold Cup. I would remain positive about Djakadam also. I would like to see Djakadam go straight to the Gold cup however.The race also gave a snap shot of the the trainers title race Mullins had a four timer , however Elliott had a 1-2 in the feature race. I think this trainers title race will go down to the wire at Punchestown. The other race at Leopardstown that was of major interest was the Pertemps qualifier which went to Electric Concorde for Jim Culloty and David Mullins. The horse who went into my notebook was Presenting Percy who finished fifth under Davey Russell. The exact same trainer , ownerand Jockey combination won the final of the Pertemps at Cheltenham last season with Mall Dini. I will be keeping a very close eye on Presenting Percy in the final this year.
At Limerick, there was a double for Gordon Elliott with Stone Hard in the beginners chase and Missy Tata who took the listed hurdle. Missy Tata is another horse heading for the mares hurdle at Cheltenham which is shaping up to be one of the races of the festival. There was a double for Stephen Mahon with Ballyluskey and Smokey Joe Joe. There was a winner for seven pound claimer Dylan Robinson on board Island Remede in the maiden hurdle for Henry De Bromhead. Dylan Robinson is a jockey with a big future. Willie Mullins picked up his fifth winner of the day with Coquin Mans who scrambled home by a head in the maiden hurdle under Paul Townend. At Leicester, there was a winner for Dan and Harry Skelton with Zarib a talented hurdler got off the mark over fences here. David Pipe had a winner with Rathealy in the selling hurdle. At Lingfield, the good run of Tom Dascombe and Richard Kingscote continued with the win of Fire Diamond.
Thursday, we start at Leopardstown for Day 4 of the Christmas festival. I was in attendance once again. There was a double for Willie Mullins the first leg of which was Battleford in the maiden hurdle who stayed on powerfully but jumped appalling. Lets Dance completed the Mullins double winning the Grade 3 mares hurdle by 17 lengths. The first grade 1 on the card went to Our Duke for Jessica Harrington. Our Duke won a pulsating contest by a half length from Coney Island and Disko by a half length and a half length. These three horses were 21 lengths clear of the fourth horse Martelllo Tower. Our Duke made a number of mistakes, however the way Our Duke got back up was very impressive. I would think Our Duke and Coney Island are serious contenders for the RSA at Cheltenham. I really hope Disko goes for the four miler, he would be of serious interest in that. Alpha Des Obeaux burst blood vessels and has to be watched for now.Our Duke was advised to our members 1pt each way (13/2)
The next Grade 1 off the rank was the Ryanair Hurdle. Nichols Canyon went off 2/5 but in truth never looked happy in the race. Petit Mouchoir ceased control of the race early doors jumping well and travelling beautifully to win the race by 7 lengths. I was very taken by this performance I consider Petit Mouchoir to be a major champion hurdle contender now. Nichols Canyon appeared to lose all chance at the second last a bit like the Irish Champion hurdle last season. I strongly suspect Nichols Canyon does not like Leopardstown. I thought Ivanovich Gorbatov's campaign to be ready for the County Hurdle at Cheltenham continued superbly here. Ivanovich Gorbatov is now rated 150 if he could get down to 147 he would be of massive interest in a county hurdle. Robbie McNamara got the winner of the bumper his horse Quick Grabim was really impressive. I really liked this performance a possible Cheltenham bumper contender I would reckon.
At Limerick, there was a treble for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend with Pylonthepressure, Benie Des Dieux and Penhill. I thought Benie Des Dieux was very impressive , Penhill also upheld the form of Airlie Beach and Saturnas from the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse. I have to say even by Willie Mullins incredible standards this Christmas period has been special. Even without Gigginstown, Mullins has chalked up a remarkable 22 winners since St Stephens day. Twenty of those obliged for favourite backers. There was a double for Michael Hourigan with Undressed and Moores Road. At Kelso, there was a landmark achievment. Lough Derg Jewel provided Donald McCain with his 1,000th training success at Kelso on Thursday. I have always liked Donald McCain, who is a top trainer despite recent setbacks as regards losing owners. At Doncaster, the powerhouse yards from the south west of England got a couple of winners. Paul Nicholls struck with Clic Work who took the novices handicap chase by 9 lengths. David Pipe captured the 2 miles 7 furlongs handicap chase with La Vaticane who shouldered 12 stone 2 pounds to victory At Southwell, there was a double for Tony Hamilton on board Captain Lars and Clever Divya.
Friday, Haydock was abandoned due to frost. At Newcastle, there was a double for jockey Tom Eaves on board The Magic Pencil and Adalene. At Taunton, there were doubles for Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson with The Unit and Kerrow. The listed mares hurdle went to Coillte Lass who powered to a four and a half length victory from Dusky Legend. I like Coillte Lass as a horse , I think she can go on to much better things.
Saturday, we start at Newbury. The Mandarin handicap chase went to Potters Cross for Rebecca Curtis and James King who saw off Treaty Girl and Conas Taoi. Potters Cross is on the upgrade in my view. The Challow Novice hurdle a grade one race saw Robin Roe go off favourite however he crashed out three hurdles out.The race went to Messire Des Obeaux who was very impressive to my eyes. I think Messire Des Obeaux is a serious Neptune contender on the back of this run. Messire Des Obeaux was advised to our members 3pts win at (7/2). William Henry won the finale for Nicky Henderson by 7 lengths, giving Henderson a 10th victory in 11 years in the race. At Warwick, Buveur D’Air remained unchanged in JLT betting after workmanlike success. Buveur D’Air has a lot of talent it will be interesting to see how his education over fences continues. Saint John Henry took the Three Miles Two Furlongs Handicap hurdle by 6 lengths for David Pipe.
At Uttoxeter, there were doubles for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch with Bennys King and Burtons Well. Special Wells continued his love affair with Uttoxeter as he won at the tack again by 11 lengths. There was nothing of note at Lingfield to my eyes. At Punchestown, there was a double for Willie Mullins with Childrens List and Redhotfillypeppers. There was a second win over the Christmas period for Duke Cass who followed up his Limerick win with another success here. Supasundae landed the feature race in style, this was a good performance from a horse who run in a handicap at Leopardstown earlier in the week. The coral cup could be a long term target in my view.
Sunday, we start at Cheltenham were heavy rain once again changed the going. The day was one to remember for Lizzie Kelly who rode a double. The first leg of the Kelly double was Coo Star Sivola who took the neptune investment novice hurdle. Coo Star Sivola was getting weight , however won well. I am finding the novice hurdle picture very confusing I must admit right now. I do think Messire Des Obeaux would have beaten this lot. The second leg of the Kelly double saw Agrapart get back up to beat L'ami Serge by a head in the Relkeel hurdle. Lami Serge was advised to our members 1pt each way at (7/2).The Dipper novice chase went to Whisper who would not enjoy this ground. The former Coral Cup and Aintree Hurdle winner has serious talent. I would say whichever novice chase he turns up in at Cheltenham he deserves serious attention. Whisper saw off Clan Des Obeaux by a half length who ran very well , however Clan Des Obeaux missed the second last which cost him his chance. The Grade three Betbright Handicap Chase saw Village Vic put most of his rivals out of there comfort zone around Cheltenham again. There was one rival who was able to cope it was the formerly Colin Bowe trained Shantou Flyer who is now with Rebecca Curtis. Shantou Flyer picked up Village Vic two fences out staying on strongly to see Village Vic off by three lengths. Shantou Flyer has lots of options in the UK , I think he will do very well as he has a lot of talent. Village Vic advised to our members 1pt each way (9/2) placed in the 200 at Cheltenham.
At Musselburgh, the day belonged to Will Kennedy who rode a treble on board Project Bluebook, Rolling Thunder and Clondaw Kaempfer. The last two mentioned horses formed a double for Donald McCain. Clondaw Kaempfer paid a compliment to Messire Des Obeaux who had beaten Clondaw Kaempfer by 19 lengths at Bangor. Clondaw Kaempfer saw off Arthurs Secret and Man Of Plenty in a very good finish. Man Of Plenty was advised to our members 1pt each way at (16/1). Superb Story got back on the winning trail for Dan Skelton and Harry Skelton winning the Hogmanaeigh hurdle under top weight. Superb Story who won last seasons County Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival, will now either head back for the County or Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. At Exeter, Harry Fry rang the new year in with a bang it was a treble for the brilliant Fry. The horses were Neon Wolf , Space Oddity and Air Horse One. There was also a winner on the day for David Pipe with Mr Clarkson. At Catterick, Premier Bond won by 13 lengths in the novice chase paying a serious compliment to stablemate Might Bite who defeated Premier Bond on his previous start. The Bay Oak won the Novice hurdle for Dan Skelton. At Fakenham , there was a double for Wayne Hutchinson on board Amber Gambler and Shinooki. There were also doubles for trainer Lucy Wadham and jockey Jack Sherwood with Iconic Sky and Artifice Sivola. At Southwell, there was a treble for jockey Andrew Mullen on board Zandradee, Razin Hell and House Of Commons.
In Ireland, we had two meeting we start at Tramore where David Mullins rode a treble on board, Peculliar Genius, Adreamstillalive and Champagne West. The last two mentioned horses formed a double for Henry De Bromhead . Champagne West took the feature race winning very impressively by 12 lengths from Roi Des Francs. At Fairyhouse, there were doubles for Henry De Bromhead and Dylan Robinson with Montanna Belle and Balko Des Flos. The Christmas racing fittingly ended with Willie Mullins winning the bumper at Fairyhouse with Next Destination. A week I am sure even the master trainer Willie Mullins will never forget. Happy New year to all our readers