Samcro made it two out of two over hurdles with another scintillating display in the Grade 3 Monksfield Novices' Hurdle at Navan. Positioned on the outside by Jack Kennedy, the Germany gelding toyed with his seven opponents throughout and won hard held by a dozen lengths. While there is a possibility he will return to the same track for the Grade 1 Navan Novices' Hurdle next month, he is considered more likely to wait for another Grade 1 at Naas in early January. Already a short price favourite for the Ballymore Properties NH at the Festival in March, it will take a mighty performance to halt Gordon Elliott's charge. He must be the most exciting young prospect in National Hunt racing at present.
Ice Cool Champs looks a progressive staying handicap hurdler for Philip Hobbs, judged on his win at Uttoxeter on Sunday. The Robin Des Champs gelding had run on to finish third over two and a half miles at Wetherby on his reappearance earlier this month and appreciated the step up in distance at the Midlands track. Ploughing through the mud, he kept on well from the second last to win decisively off a mark of 124. Even allowing for a fairly healthy rise in the ratings, he can be expected to stay ahead of the handicapper in the short term. Long-term, he will make a nice staying chaser who could be contesting something like a Welsh National one day - he stays well and is effective in deep underfoot conditions. The race had a sad postscript with news that the third Beast of Burden suffered a heart attack shortly after the winning line and subsequently lost his life.
Rich and Susannah Ricci enjoyed a double at Gowran Park on Saturday. Sharjah, who is featured in the French Revolution section of OJA, made it two out of two over hurdles in a novice event which has been won by the same connections Douvan and American Tom in recent years. Partnered by Paul Townend, the gelding overcame a mistake at the third last before quickening up smartly between the final two flights. He looks a smart horse who could improve again on better ground. Min was a most impressive winner of the two and a half miles chase. Having his first outing since Boxing Day last year, the former Supreme NH runner-up jumped boldly throughout before cantering to a 36 lengths win. Effective over two and two and a half miles, it will be interesting to see how he is campaigned for the remainder of the season. Either way, he looks a top-class horse who will be a major threat in whichever race he contests at Cheltenham next March. He is a very good novice hurdler but I feel he is a far superior horse now and looks the real deal.
Bristol De Mai won the Betfair Chase at Haydock by a staggering 57 lengths under Daryl Jacob with a powerful display of galloping and jumping. The six year old has won three chases at the Merseyside track by an aggregate of 111 lengths. Three miles on a flat track in testing ground bring out the best in the Saddler Maker gelding and the King George is his next target, with the £1 million bonus on offer. There is no reason why Kempton won't suit him but Cheltenham hasn't brought out the best in him in the past having failed to win either the JLT or Gold Cup (seventh last season). Regardless of how he performs next March, he is very good horse when encountering his optimum conditions and his win on Saturday maintained the fantastic run of Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has already won a Charlie Hall, BetVictor Gold and Betfair Chase this Autumn. The Tizzard stable have suggested runner-up Cue Card will swerve the King George and look for easier pickings in the New Year. Therefore if Thistlecrack fails to shine over hurdles at Newbury on Friday, it begs the question whether Fox Norton will be asked to tackle three miles for the first time in the Boxing Day showpiece at the Sunbury track. He looked very good over two and a half miles in the Melling Chase at Aintree in the spring and I will be surprised if he doesn't stay three miles. He could be the joker in the King George pack, if Tizzard can persuade the owners to keep Sizing John in Ireland.
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