Bristol Enters Gold Cup Fray and Phil Keeps Elliott Ball Rolling

Clarence House Chase Victim of Weather

This weekend’s racing action was heavily sabotaged by the biting frost and cold across Britain, with the headline act of the Clarence House Chase amongst those contests abandoned. The outcome of that contest invariably provides useful clues ahead of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and this year will perhaps be more relevant than ever, with the event being rescheduled to take place at Cheltenham on Saturday.

New Gold Cup Contenders?

Whilst several fixtures fell by the wayside on Saturday and Sunday, Haydock did go ahead and featured what can only be labelled an extremely impressive display from the Nigel Twiston-Davies runner, Bristol De Mai, in the Peter Marsh Chase. Much of the talk ahead of this three-mile contest was focussed upon the British debut of man of the moment, Colin Tizzard’s French recruit, Alary. Mentioned as a possible contender for the Gold Cup in some quarters, the seven year old never looked like landing a blow before being pulled up in a most underwhelming display.

It was instead left to the dual Grade 1 winner Bristol de Mai to thrust himself into the Gold cup picture. The step up to this trip certainly seems to have brought about significant improvement in this son of Saddle Maker and the bookies reacted by trimming him into 14/1 from 50/1 for the Cheltenham showpiece. In a race which – with the exception of Thistlecrack –  is beginning to look more open, he is likely to prove a popular each way option.

Gordon Elliott Wins Again

Over in Ireland it was the Leopardstown Handicap Chase which took centre stage on Sunday. And once again it was the bang in form Gordon Elliott who proved the man to follow. Having been previously campaigned in Grade 1 company, A Toi Phil proved up to the task taking a marked drop in class….but only just. Backed into favouritism the novice certainly made backers sweat before coming with a sustained driving finish to nab the leader Stellar Notion close home.

The RSA Chase and JLT Novices Chase seem the two most likely Festival options at this stage, with the gelding trading at around the 25/1 mark for each of those contests. For Elliott this was just the latest in a succession of big handicap successes as he continues his assault on the Irish Training Championship.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to the coming weekend and there is once again a cracking menu on offer for fans of the National Hunt game. First up is the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Saturday afternoon. It is the Rebecca Curtis runner, Bigbadjohn, who looks set to go off favourite this year in a race which often has ramifications ahead of the big Festival handicaps.

He found only Thistlecrack too good last time out and won’t come up against anything of that calibre here. Meanwhile Sunday sees Leopardstown play host to a cracking card which features the Irish versions of both the Arkle and Champion Hurdle. The Willie Mullins stars Faugheen and Min look set to be two of the star names on show at the Dublin venue.