Two-time Unibet Champion Hurdle runner-up Sharjah will miss the race following the latest forfeit stage for the major Cheltenham Festival races. Sharjah has been second in hurdling's blue riband event for the last years and was most recently seen winning the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting for the fourth time. Trainer Willie Mullins told Sporting Life: "Unfortunately Sharjah won’t make Cheltenham and has been taken out of the race."The aim is to get him back for Punchestown, a track where he has already won the Morgiana Hurdle twice."
Elsewhere, Nicky Henderson's 10-year-old Champ has been taken out of the Boodles Gold Cup as connections concentrate on the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle. Veteran stablemate Buveur D’Air has also been taken out of his two engagements at the Festival, in the Champion and Stayers’ Hurdles, and he now has the Aintree Hurdle, which he won back in 2017, as his aim."There’s nothing wrong with Buveur, we’ve only really had major objective with him which is the Aintree Hurdle," said Henderson."We want one run before that but we’ve only ever been aiming at the Aintree Hurdle, he ran very well in it last year."
Former champion jockey Richard Johnson hailed seven-times Grade One winner Defi Du Seuil as "one of the best" he has ridden, after the nine-year-old was retired by owner JP McManus. The Philip Hobbs-trained nine-year-old has struggled since winning the last of his top-level races in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January 2020. He had failed to shine in two races since a wind operation in the summer and McManus took the decision to retire him. Johnson, who partnered Defi Du Seuil to two of his Grade One successes, including the Triumph Hurdle in 2017, said: "He has been an amazing racehorse and even though he is not an old horse, he has achieved so much."He has given Philip, Mr McManus and his family, myself and the likes of Barry Geraghty some great times.
Soldier of Destiny was an impressive winner at Ffos Las. It was good news for our members who were advised 1.5pts win at 11/4. At Doncaster, there was a double for Alan King with The Unit and Thunder Ahead. At Thurles, there was a double for Willie Mullins with Gentleman De Mee and Adamantly Chosen. Dermot Weld's high-class flat performer Falcon Eight opened his account over jumps with a hard-fought victory at Thurles. The Galileo gelding has four wins on the level to his name, most notably claiming Listed honours in the 2019 Coral Marathon at Sandown and coming out on top in last year's Chester Cup under Frankie Dettori. While only fifth on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown, that race was won by a leading Cheltenham Festival hope in Journey With Me, while the runner-up Minella Crooner finished second in a Grade One at the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend and the third Kilcruit has since bolted up at Punchestown.
At Dundalk, Annecherrie was on target for Sheila Lavery. It was good news for our members who were advised 0.75pt each way at 11/2. Annecherrie looks a stayer to follow at Dundalk. A Case Of you got his season up and running with an easy win. At Kempton, there was a double for Colin Tizzard with Elixir De Nutz and Killer Kane. The Tizzard team are returning to form. Brilliant racemare Enable has given birth to her first foal, a colt by Kingman, Juddmonte has announced.
Edwardstone confirmed his superiority over Third Time Lucki with a faultless display in the Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick. Alan King’s eight-year-old is now as short as 7-4 favourite for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham next month. Having his fifth run of the season, Edwardstone had a Grade One in the bag from the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown when Dan Skelton’s Third Time Lucki was left trailing in his wake. Tom Cannon moved the 10-11 market leader up alongside For Pleasure down the back straight the rest were soon out of their comfort zone. Even though Harry Skelton had not asked for everything on Third Time Lucki at the third-last, the usual smooth-traveller was going quicker than he wanted to and that showed when he made a mistake. Edwardstone scooted away over the final two fences to win by four and a quarter lengths, to set himself up perfectly for his tilt at the Arkle. I really liked this performance. I think Edwardstone looks the real deal, the Irish challenge for the Arkle is strong. That said Edwardstone is a worthy Arkle favourite.
Eldorado Allen relished the step up to three miles in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury to dent some lofty reputations. Up against dual King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux and Betfair Chase runner-up Royale Pagaille, the Colin Tizzard-trained grey looked to have it to do. However, plenty felt he held some sort of a chance as he was steadily backed throughout the day to be sent off at just 6-1 under Brendan Powell. Having won the Haldon Gold Cup over almost two and a quarter miles first time out this season, the eight-year-old had to prove his stamina but Brendan Powell was positive on him. He helped set the pace until David Bass took over on Imperial Aura, although despite putting in some big leaps on the way by the time Kim Bailey's charge reached four from home he had stopped quickly and failed to finish once more. That left Eldorado Allen in front and while Clan Des Obeaux was under pressure early in the straight, Royale Pagaille had made good progress to challenge but he could never quite get on terms. Eldorado Allen kept on strongly after the last and while he holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase next month, connections will have to weigh up whether to supplement for the Gold Cup or not.
I think this was a funny result my suspicion is Royale Pagaille was feeling a hard race at Haydock. Clan Des Obeaux almost certainly ran below par with the Nicholls horses still not firing.
Funambule Sivola (9-4) made most of the running to win the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase and continue the golden run of Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch. The pair can do little wrong at present and having earned plenty of prize money at Lingfield's Winter Million meeting Williams provided Deutsch with his first Grade One win last weekend, when L’Homme Presse cruised to victory in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown. With Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite pulled out of the Newbury feature not long after declarations on Thursday, the way was left clear for Funambule Sivola to dictate matters in front. Last year’s winner Sceau Royal adopted his usual stalking role under new pilot James Bowen, only to get in tight to the fourth-last and always be on the back foot thereafter. Hitman travelled smoothly for a long way and looked a threat running to two out, but Funambule Sivola never missed a beat up the home straight and it was left to Sceau Royal to chase him home, beaten two lengths.
Glory And Fortune (20-1) held off I Like To Move It to provide jockey Stan Sheppard and trainer Tom Lacey with victory in the valuable Betfair Hurdle. The novice Jetoile made sure the race was run at its usual helter-skelter pace, but running to three out he had faded and Glory And Fortune was left in front. That was probably sooner than Sheppard wanted, but there were still a handful of the favourites travelling apparently well. Among them were the Nicky Henderson-trained duo Broomfield Burg and First Street, I Like To Move It and last year's winner Soaring Glory. Glory And Fortune nicked a couple of lengths on the run to the second-last, however, and it proved crucial. Everything else was soon off the bridle and while Nigel Twiston-Davies’ novice I Like To Move It emerged from the pack to throw down a late challenge and was closing with every stride, the line came in time for the winner who held on by a short head. First Street was third, with Lord Baddesley making late gains for fourth.
I liked this performance from Glory And Fortune. There is a case to say this horse has been underestimated. I would like to see I Like To Move It go for the County Hurdle.
Journey With Me maintained his unbeaten record but was made to work in the Connolly's Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle at Naas. Henry de Bromhead’s charge is one of the main fancies for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next month and was sent off the 4-11 favourite to make it two out of two over hurdles. The pace was a joke, so Rachael Blackmore decided to kick on and from there it was all about when she decided to go for home. It was not until the second-last that Journey With Me began to pull away but Choice Of Words kept him honest. The winning distance was three lengths, with De Bromhead’s charge now as low as 7-2 for the Ballymore.
I cant have Journey With Me at all for the Ballymore. I think 7/2 is a terrible price.
Death Duty rolled back the years to claim top honours in the Hollywoodbets Grand National Trial at Punchestown. Gordon Elliott's charge was a Grade One winner over hurdles and fences in his prime, but had failed to get his head in front since winning the Drinmore at Fairyhouse in December 2017. Now an 11-year-old, Death Duty had not been disgraced in either the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown or the Thyestes at Gowran Park on his last two starts. Champagne Platinum came home to good effect, but Death Duty never looked in any danger of being reeled in and passed the post with three lengths in hand.
Slip Of The Tongue (5-2JF) played a starring role in a treble for jockey Mark Walsh and owner JP McManus with a dramatic victory in the INH Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle. The Walsh-McManus treble was initiated by Midnight Maestro (9-2), who edged out stablemate Shady Operator in the Hollywoodbets Bet 10 Get 30 PP Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase. Walsh and McManus doubled up with the Willie Mullins-trained Ciel De Niege (5-4F), who comfortably made it three from three over fences in the Hollywoodbets Cheltenham Festival Preview March 3rd Rated Novice Chase.