It was another poor day for the Top 40 Prospects with all three runners turned over. Adjali had beaten Quel Destin twice when the pair raced in France. However, the latter gained his revenge in the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow. A neck scorer having made all the running, the Muhtathir gelding has now won his last four races for Paul Nicholls' charge. Successful in a Grade 2 event Doncaster twelve days ago, he thrives on his racing and appears to be improving with every start. I must confess to have been disappointed with the runner-up who had won easily on his UK debut at Market Rasen earlier this month. Daryl Jacob's mount had every chance on the run-in but couldn't put his head in front.
Elegant Escape provided Colin Tizzard with his second win in the Welsh National in the last three years. A smart staying novice last term, he had beaten Thomas Patrick on his reappearance at Sandown before finishing runner-up in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury. Racing off a mark of 151, he was always well positioned by Tom O'Brien and found plenty for pressure on the run-in to deny Ramses De Teillee, who had won the trial at the same track earlier this month. As regards my selections in the Christmas Special, Vintage Clouds produced his worst display of his chasing career, while Folsom Blue may have got involved if there was another circuit. Jamie Codd's mount was very slowly away and never looked like figuring.
Ask For Glory is another of Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers in One Jump Ahead and the Fame And Glory couldn't have made a better start to his Rules career. Bought for £280,000 in May, Paul Nicholls' new recruit beat seven rivals by upwards of thirteen lengths in the concluding bumper. Making all, he looks a fine prospect although he is unlikely to be over raced this term.
Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Altior made it 11 wins out of 11 over fences with another terrific performance in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton. Nicky Henderson's triple Cheltenham Festival winner proved a class above his rivals as he eased to a nineteen lengths success. He really is something special and, with Footpad failing to land the Grade 1 prize at Leopardstown, the eight year old will take some stopping once again next March.
Kalashnikov could only finish second in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices' Chase at the Sunbury track. Amy Murphy's stable star made an early mistake and never looked happy thereafter from what we could see through the fog. Beaten a length and a quarter, he was receiving five pounds from Paul Nicholls' winner Dynamite Dollars. On this evidence, the five year old won't win an Arkle Trophy but I would be inclined to forgive him this effort. He will be a different proposition racing left-handed and ridden more positively. He was always playing catch up at Kempton following that error at the third fence.
Paul Nicholls has enjoyed a tremendous Christmas with 7 winners from 21 runners over the last two days. Conversely, it has been a lousy couple of days for the Christmas Special. Sir Erec recorded a hard fought win on his hurdles debut in the opening juvenile event at Leopardstown and he will hopefully develop into a high-class novice. I thought Any Second Now was set to go close in the Paddy Power Chase (advised at 16/1 - sent off 5/1 favourite) but a mistake at the final fence sealed his fate. Ted Walsh's well backed runner eventually finished fifth. French import Borice never recovered from a bad blunder at the first.
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