Topofthegame, who ran well when finishing fourth in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton last month, relished the step up to nearly three miles to land the valuable staying handicap hurdle at Sandown. Paul Nicholls' giant gelding raced prominently on the outside before mounting his challenge on the run to the penultimate flight. Staying on strongly, he edged to his right on the run-in but was always holding his rivals before winning by a length and a half. It will be interesting to see where he goes between now and the end of the season but he is very much a horse to look forward back over fences next winter. A faller at Newbury's Winter Festival on his chasing bow, the decision was made to revert back to the smaller obstacles and it has been vindicated. However, given his size and scope, his long-term future lies over fences and he has the potential to be top-class. His victory was an excellent result for the Top 40 Prospects in OJA.
It was day one of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown with Min providing the highlight in the Grade 2 Coral Dublin Chase over two miles one. Denied a Grade 1 win at the track over Christmas by the stewards, he was much more at home sat off a strong gallop on this occasion, compared to forcing the issue like he had last time. Special Tiara and Alisier D'Irlande ensured a furious pace from the outset and David Mullins was content to sit in third position for much of the contest. Taking charge on the run to the final fence, a good leap at the last sealed his win before bounding twelve lengths clear. Unless Douvan suddenly enters the picture, the Queen Mother Champion Chase would appear Min's most likely Cheltenham target and set up a rematch with Altior after the pair met in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle a couple of years ago. That would leave the way clear for Un De Sceaux to defend his crown in the Ryanair Chase. Following his dismal display, one would imagine Yorkhill will revert to the smaller obstacles and contest the Champion Hurdle, if anything at the Festival. He never looked like getting involved and has flopped in both his starts over fences this term.
Footpad made it three out of three over fences in the Grade 1 two mile novice chase and cemented his place at the top of the ante-post market for the Arkle at Cheltenham. Making all, Paul Townend's mount jumped well once again and wasn't hard pressed to beat his old rival Petit Mouchoir for the first time in his career. Henry De Bromhead's charge had come out on top on their previous three clashes but Footpad has already indicated he is going to make a better chaser than he was hurdler. However, despite the fact five lengths separated the pair on this occasion, I don't think its set in stone the result will be the same at Prestbury Park next month. It is worth remembering the runner-up was having only his second run over fences and his first since October following a setback, whereas the winner has enjoyed a clear run this winter and had more experience. Plus, Petit Mouchoir was far from fluent over the first two fences. With this run under his belt, it could be a different ballgame next March, especially on the Old course at Cheltenham. Davy Russell didn't subject the grey to a hard race once he realised the game was up.
Jessica Harrington has done a superb job with the horses she was sent by the late Alan Potts. She transformed Sizing John into a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and Supasundae was only rated 142 when he joined her stable (with a Listed bumper for Andrew Balding and maiden hurdle win to his name). The Galileo won the Coral Cup last March off 148 before being placed in Grade 1 company on his next three starts for Harrington and this afternoon he lowered the colours of the mighty Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle off a rating of 159. Admittedly, the runner-up is a shadow of his former self and it would be no surprise to see him retired sooner rather than later, but it was still a terrific effort over a trip shy of his best and a brilliant training performance. Despite his win here over two miles, he is set to tackle the Stayers' Hurdle over an extra mile and he goes to Cheltenham with leading claims. He has only raced twice over three miles finishing second on both occasions.
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