Lion Denies Lodge By A Whisker and Un De Sceaux Too Good in Tingle

Vieux Lion Rouge landed Saturday’s feature at Aintree when getting up in the shadow of the post to win the 3m2f Becher Chase. With only 2 ½l between the first four home, this proved to be a real thriller for a staying event, and commiserations must go out to the runner up Highland Lodge. James Moffatt’s ten year old once again showed his liking for this track and failed by just a short head to defend his crown from twelve months ago.

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For the David Pipe trained winner meanwhile, this triumph marked the six year olds first success in Graded company, having come up short on his three previous attempts at this level. A seventh placed showing in the Grand National back in April offered plenty of cause for optimism ahead of this assignment though and he once again showed his aptitude for these obstacles. The punters certainly seemed taken with his chances as the gelding was punted into clear 8/1f on the day, making him a popular winner with the Merseyside crowd. Another tilt at the Grand National looks to be on the cards on the back of this, a race for which he is now a 25/1 shot with Ladbrokes.

Tingle Creek Excitement

The big Grade 1 of the weekend took place at Sandown, as the Esher venue staged the 2016 edition of the Tingle Creek Chase. Two time champion Sire De Grugy was another defending champion to put up a bold defence of his crown, but in the end also had to settle for second as he proved no match for the Willie Mullins trained Un De Sceaux in the closing stages.

But for a couple of late blunders this would likely have proved a far more comfortable afternoon for Mullins’s 2014 Arkle winner and having finished runner up to Sprinter Sacre last season, another shot at the Queen Mother Champion Chase may be on the agenda. Sky Bet make him a 10/1 shot for that event, but he will surely have to improve if he is to trouble the current market leader, Douvan.

Fairyhouse Fun

Over at Fairyhouse on Sunday, the four Graded races on the card provided a few early pointers ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. Joseph O’Brien’s, Landofhopeandglory’s polished display in the opening juvenile hurdle saw him make his way to the head of the Triumph Hurdle market, a race his trainer won last year with Ivanovich Gorbatov.

Later in the day, there was only a short head to separate Apple’s Jade and Vroum Vroum Mag in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, and we could be in for a close rematch in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham if the market is any guide.  The Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins trained runners are currently vying for favouritism for that event.

Looking Ahead

We have yet more Graded jumping action on the menu this coming weekend, with both Cheltenham and Doncaster playing host to cracking cards. Cheltenham in particular looks worth tuning into with the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and stanjames.com International Hurdle the headline acts.

It is the the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, commonly known as the December Gold Cup, which is likely to prove the big betting heat of the weekend.  Warren Greatrex’s Aloomo hit form at around this time last year and looks set to contest favouritism with Jonjo O’Neill’s recent BetVictor Gold Cup scorer, Taquin Du Seuil.