It has been a Christmas to remember for Colin Tizzard with Thistlerack winning the King George at Kempton on only his fourth run over fences and then Native River followed up his Hennessy win with another tremendous weight carrying performance in the Welsh National. The pair now look likely to clash in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Thistlecrack produced a stunning display on Boxing Day as he made another of his stablemates, namely Cue Card, look ordinary in the King George. Once into a rhythm, last season's World Hurdle winner jumped very well and had the race in safe keeping some way from home. The winning margin of three and a quarter lengths grossly flattered the runner-up. For a horse lacking chasing experience, it was an imperious display and, if in the same form, he sets one hell of a standard in steeplechasing's Blue Riband next March.
Conversely, Nicky Henderson had a Boxing Day to forget at Kempton with a series of reversals - Jenkins barely jumped a hurdle, Might Bite had the Kauto Star NC in the bag when falling at the last, My Tent Or Yours' chance in the Christmas Hurdle was sacrificed to aid Yanworth's chances, and Caracci Apache broke down. Thankfully, the Seven Barrows team had much more to smile about on Tuesday. French recruit Charli Parcs looked a high class juvenile hurdle in the opening event at the Sunbury track. He travelled and jumped well throughout and wasn't extended to win by eight lengths. Expect him to make an impact in the major juvenile events in the spring and offer able back up to the same owner's Grade 1 winner Defi Du Seuil. Altior made it three out of three over fences with another exhibition round of jumping in the Wayward Lad NC. An eighteen lengths winner, he never came off the bridle and his clash with Min in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham is one to look forward to.
Meri Devie, who is featured in the French Revolution section of One Jump Ahead, looks another smashing prospect for Graham Wylie and Willie Mullins. A smart performer on the Flat, the daughter of Spirit One comprehensively outjumped another very useful Flat performer, Housesofparliament, before quickening away after the last flight. Like Charli Parcs, she looks Triumph Hurdle material.
It hasn't been a good couple of days for the Email Service. There were no excuses for today's selection, he jumped well and held every chance but was run out of it after the last. Apologies for that.
As regards the Christmas Special, the Welsh National was a non event with the two selections losing their position on the first bend and, in all likelihood, finding the ground too lively (both prefer heavy). Thistlecrack won the King George and Charli Parcs was highlighted as a horse to follow. Thankfully, Declan Phelan came to the fore with an inspired selection in the hunter chase at Limerick on Tuesday. Declan stated a strong case for Sweet As A Nut (available at 6/1 last night) and the six year old never looked in any danger as he cantered through the race before winning hard held. The interview with Gordon Elliott has also proved profitable with Noble Endeavor landing a gamble in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown. He is a horse I have a lot of time for and backed him in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last spring. I was kicking myself afterwards for not tipping him on this occasion, especially with Davy Russell on board, who gave the gelding a fantastic ride. It has just been one (or two) of those days.
Talking of Declan Phelan's, his Irish Pointers section in OJA produced another couple of winners today, courtesy of Ballyward (by 16 lengths at Leopardstown) and Cadeyrn (7/1).
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