Champ made a successful reappearance back over timber by winning the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and, in doing so, supplying Jonjo O'Neill jnr with his first winner at the highest level. The former RSA Chase winner was due to contest the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month but his connections ran out of time hence the decision to revert back to the smaller obstacles. The nine year old travelled powerfully and arguably hit the front soon enough. However, he battled on well to fend off the persistent challenge of Thyne Hill to prevail by a length and three quarters. In all likelihood, he will stay over hurdles now with the Stayers' Hurdle his most likely target at the Cheltenham Festival. It is a wide open decision.
There were due to be four runners in the Top 40 Prospects on Saturday but a couple were withdrawn due to the dry ground. American Mike cemented his place at the head of the ante-post market for the Cheltenham Festival bumper with another dominant display. The Mahler gelding had created a favourable impression on his Rules bow at Down Royal in late October and produced an even better display in the Listed event which Gordon Elliott has dominated in recent years - his sixth win in the last seven years. The stable have won it with the likes of Don Cossack, Samcro, Envoi Allen and Sir Gerhard and following his seventeen lengths victory, the four year old looks another top notch performer in the making. His trainer said afterwards that he is now likely to head straight to Cheltenham, which probably isn't a bad thing having gained experience, while plenty of other horses have been held up by the dry weather and the uncertain times we face early in the New Year.
Well done to Declan Phelan once again following Up For Parol's win at Haydock. Featured in his Irish Pointers article, Jamie Snowden's charge appeared much happier back over hurdles having incurred an injury on his chasing debut at Ffos Las in November. The Flemensfirth gelding stayed on well to get the better of another promising type Stellar Magic scoring by a length and a half with the pair five lengths clear of the third.
Apologies for the slightly shortened update but I am continuing to work on the Christmas Special which will be emailed to clients on Wednesday. If you haven't already ordered a copy, please head to the Publications section of the site. The Update is £8.00 and includes a detailed analysis of the King George, Welsh National and other feature events over the Festival period, plus an interview with Mick Meagher, racing manager to the late Trevor Hemmings.
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