Racing News – Cheltenham Festival a Month Away

Comeback Kings Take Centre Stage On Super Saturday

River Rocking Ahead Of Gold Cup Challenge

With the first comeback runner of the day on Newbury’s Super Saturday card, Barters Hill, earlier running as though something was amiss, attention then turned to the returning star who has been set the challenge of winning the most prestigious jumps race of them all.

Colin Tizzard’s Native River enjoyed a fine campaign last term, winning both the Hennessy and the Welsh National, before coming up just short in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. A change of strategy this term saw him kept fresh until Saturday’s Betfair Denman Chase, with the aim of him hitting his peak for the Festival showpiece.  Judging by this this 12-length demolition job, that plan looks to have every chance of bearing fruit.

Whilst this was only a three-runner affair in which he was allowed his own way in front from the off, it was nevertheless hard not to be impressed by the manner in which he got the job done, particularly on what was his first run of the season. Fans of Native River will surely glean further confidence from the current form of his trainer, Colin Tizzard. Now seemingly out of his early season doldrums, Tizzard followed up this big Saturday success with a treble at Exeter on Sunday.

Already amongst the market leaders for the Gold Cup following his fine third in the race last year, this display saw Native River harden in to 6/1 from 8/1 with Ladbrokes. He looks just about the most solid each way option in an open year.

Altior Absolutely Awesome

Undoubtedly the performance of the day came from the horse who may well be the most talented performer currently in training. Nicky Henderson’s Altior was simply sensational in the Betfair Exchange Chase. Returning to the track for the first time since last April, and having undergone a wind procedure in the interim, last season’s Arkle hero had plenty of questions to answer in this Grade 2 affair. Particularly so as lying in wait was this year’s improving Tingle Creek winner – and leading Champion Chase hope – Politologue.

Altior could hardly have answered these questions in more emphatic style. Travelling supremely well throughout, he left Politologue look as though he was standing still once asked to win his race in the straight, cruising clear for a four-length success. This is a real Ferrari of a racehorse.

Now unbeaten in 12 starts over obstacles, and having slammed Champion Chase second favourite, Min when the pair clashed in the 2016 Supreme Novice Hurdle, its difficult to see him being beaten at the Festival.  The firms were certainly taking evasive action, with the son of High Chaparral now odds on across the board with the 4/5 available with Betfair just about the best price on offer.

Kalashnikov Fires Murphy To Betfair Prize

There may have been classier races on Newbury’s Saturday card, but in terms of betting turnover and prize money, it was the Betfair Hurdle which was the big event of the day. The most valuable handicap hurdle of the calendar year has been won by some smart sorts over the years, including, the likes of Zarkandar, Make A Stand and My Tent Or Yours.

Judging by this year’s winning display from Amy Murphy’s Kalashnikov, there looks to be every chance that we have another star name on the roll of honour. This was a particularly encouraging performance, as it has always been suggested this five year old by Kalanisi would be a better performer on a quicker surface.

Having now won just about the most competitive handicap hurdle of the year by 4½l on soft,  he must have solid claims in his next assignment; a clash with Getabird in the Festival opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle which will likely take place on good Spring ground. He’s into 7/1 for that event with 888sport.

Aces Lining Up For Ascot Challenge

Looking ahead to the coming weekend it is the Betfair Ascot Chase which takes centre stage on Saturday. Cheltenham hopefuls, Top Notch, Waiting Patiently, Coney Island and Frodon all feature amongst the current entries, as does the veteran superstar Cue Card, who will be bidding to rediscover some of his old sparkle if making it to post. Top Notch currently heads the betting at 9/4 with Betfair.