Tea Clipper (7/4) is Tom Lacey's horse to follow in One Jump Ahead and the winning English pointer made it three out of three over hurdles at Huntingdon on Sunday. The Stowaway gelding had won at Warwick and Kempton during the Autumn and he took advantage of a seemingly lenient mark on his handicap debut at the Cambridgeshire track. Racing off 127, he overcame a mistake at the last to regain the lead close home. A neck winner, the runner-up Magic Dancer is exposed over obstacles but filled the same position in the rescheduled Betfair Hurdle at Ascot last season. Tea Clipper is likely to be given a break now, according to Lacey, before being targeted at some decent prizes in the spring. The handicapper can't do too much damage given the narrow winning margin. He is a fine long-term prospect.
Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers section produced two more winners at Punchestown on Sunday with Minella Melody (4/9) maintaining her unbeaten record over timber in the Listed mares' novice hurdle, while Grangeclare Native (6/4) produced a gutsy display in the concluding bumper. Gordon Elliott's new recruit was acquired for £125,000 having won his only point for Denis Murphy. The Shantou gelding displayed an admirable attitude rallying well having been headed by the more experienced and racefit Jungle Junction.
Min won the John Durkan Memorial Chase for a second consecutive year and provided Willie Mullins with his sixth win in the two and a half miles event (his fifth victory in the last seven years). The eight year old was recording his fifth Grade 1 victory as he battled on well after the last to beat Hardline by two and a quarter lengths. I received a text from his owner Rich Ricci afterwards and he felt the ex-French gelding didn't appreciate the strong wind and therefore did well to win. On his day, Min is a top-class horse, as he showed in the Melling Chase at Aintree last spring. Unlikely to run at Leopardstown over Christmas, due to the presence of the same connections' Chacun Pour Soi in the Grade 1 two miles chase, it will be interesting to see where he heads next.
Ireland's champion trainer has another potentially top notch two mile chaser in the form of Cilaos Emery. A Grade 1 winning novice hurdler a couple of years ago, he won on his chasing bow at Gowran Park last January - had the subsequent Arkle Trophy winner behind him - before missing the remainder of the season due to a setback. Returning at Naas last month in the Grade 3 Poplar Square Chase, he scored by eight lengths. Contesting the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase at Cork on Sunday, he wasn't hard pressed to beat the 169 rated Ballyoisin by seven lengths under Danny Mullins. Unbeaten in three starts over fences, the Califet gelding looks ready for a return to the highest company. Remarkably, Mullins was winning the Hilly Way Chase for eleventh time in the last thirteen years.
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