Grade 1 winning novice hurdler Lalor made a sparkling start to his chasing career with a seven lengths success in the Grade 2 November Novice Chase at Cheltenham. The six year old produced a fine round of jumping before quickening away to beat previous winner Dynamite Dollars and Claimantakinforgan. Unbeaten with Richard Johnson (3 from 3) on his back, he handles any ground and appears to be equally effective on stiff and easy tracks. In fact, there appear to be few, if any flaws, in his armoury. Former Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil produced a disappointing performance finishing last of the five. Barry Geraghty's mount guessed at a number of his fences and he was in trouble after the third last. While the Hobbs team were on the mark with Rock The Kasbah on Saturday and Thyme Hill ran a cracker in the concluding bumper, his McManus owned runners, namely For Good Measure, Jerrysback and Defi Du Seuil were all bitterly disappointing.
Sceau Royal was just shy of the highest level over hurdles finishing sixth in the Champion Hurdle a couple of seasons ago but Alan King's ex-French gelding could reach the top over fences. The six year old, who won four times as a novice last campaign, missed the spring Festivals due to a suspensory problem but he looked as good as ever on his return in the Shloer Chase. Despite the winning margin only being two and a half lengths, he always looked in control and was value for more. The Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown (8th December) is expected to be his next target and it worth recalling he produced a career best when winning the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novice Chase over C&D on the same card twelve months earlier. I think he will ensure Altior has a proper test at the Esher venue.
Although I gave Palmers Hill (7/1) a favourable mention in the 'wrong' race and tipped Sceau Royal, I was disappointed with the selections in the November Update on Sunday. Western Ryder was ridden forcefully in the Greatwood Hurdle and held every chance after the last. However, he didn't find much up the hill and faded to finish fifth. Charlie Parcs continue to infuriate. There were no excuses for Nicky Henderson's charge. The fact they only jumped five hurdles (due to the low sun) was never going to play to Top 40 Prospects entry Midnight Shadow (plus he would have preferred slower ground). Sue Smith's Scottish Champion Hurdle winner was well held and it is hoped he is switched to fences sooner rather than later.
As regards the Grade 2 Sharp Novice Hurdle, Elixir De Nutz stayed on strongly to beat the penalised Itchy Feet by a length and a quarter. The ex-French gelding was too keen last season but has looked a different proposition this term. His win is a major boost to the Olly Murphy trained Thomas Darby who beat the four year old over the same C&D at the showcase meeting last month. The disappointment of the race was short price favourite Seddon who could only finish third. An easy winner at Stratford last time, he didn't jump particularly well and looked slow when asked to quicken. Tom George sent out Bun Doran to win on Friday but I would think he will be disappointed with both The Worlds End and Seddon. The pair looked very good in ordinary novice events but were found wanting over the weekend in Graded company.
Thankfully, the weekend ended on a positive note with Malone Road maintaining his unbeaten record with an explosive display in the concluding bumper at Punchestown. The half-brother to Ravenhill Road and Windsor Avenue had displayed a sharp turn of foot on his Rules debut at Down Royal a fortnight ago and he looked even better here. Billed as a match between him and the 22 lengths Ballinrobe winner Mt Leinster (who had been bought by the O'Leary's since), it proved a mismtach as Jamie Codd's mount quickened up off the home bend and routed Willie Mullins' runner by eight and a half lengths. The Cheltennham Festival bumper is next and, if in the same form, the Kalanisi gelding will take some stopping. He wasn't cheap at £325,000 but you get what you pay for. He looks a class act and another star for the Top 40 Prospects in One Jump Ahead.
I will be back to update the Diary later next week because I am heading to London tomorrow for Racing UK's National Hunt preview programme on Tuesday.
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