To say the results on Saturday were frustrating is one of the understatements of the Festive period. With 4 runners in the Top 40 Prospects, I was optimistic of a successful day but it wasn't to be - Ferny Hollow's defeat in the bumper at Leopardstown provided the icing on the cake. Thankfully, Declan Phelan ensured it wasn't a totally blank day for the Christmas Special with Fully Charged producing a very likeable performance at Limerick. Henry De Bromhead's grey was a pleasure to watch as he put ten rivals to the sword in the two miles five maiden hurdle winning by twenty two lengths. He looks a lovely long-term prospect who will come into his own over fences.
Thyme Hill provided Philip Hobbs with his third win in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury with a workmanlike victory by a length and a half. The Kayf Tara gelding, who was already a dual Grade 2 winner this season, had to be ridden out after the last to see off the persistent challenge of the improving The Cashel Man with the pair pulling eighteen lengths clear of the third. Hobbs indicated afterwards that the five year old is likely to head straight to the Festival now with his target undecided depending on the state of the ground in March. Once again, he looked a strong stayer on Saturday and I suspect the Albert Bartlett NH will be his aim, unless the heavens open. A clash with The Big Breakaway and Fury Road will be something to look forward to.
Earlier on the card, Mister Coffey made an impressive start to his jumping career with a smooth win in the Introductory hurdle. A bumper winner for Harry Whittington last spring, he was acquired for £340,000 by Lady Bamford in May and switched to Nicky Henderson. The gelded son of Authorized was given a confident ride and there was a lot to like about the way he picked up after the last to win a shade cosily. His connections were keen to stress afterwards that the four year old won't be rushed. While they were keen to play down the chances of him lining up at the Cheltenham Festival, there is still time for him to emerge as a candidate for the Skybet Supreme NH. His sire has already produced Tiger Roll and the ill-fated Nichols Canyon and he appears to have another good one here.
Hazzaar was highlighted as a horse to follow in the Christmas Special but he could only finish third in the two miles novices' hurdle at Leicester. Having his first start for Venetia Williams, it may have been a different result had he not over raced during the first half of the contest. The Flemensfirth gelding still looked as though he may win on his hurdles debut between the last couple of flights but a mistake at the last sealed his fate and he was very tired on the run-in losing out for second close home. With this run under his belt, he ought to go close next time.
Apple's Jade and Delta Work stole the headlines on the third day of Leopardstown's Christmas Festival providing a memorable day for Gigginstown House, Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy. However, arguably the most interesting race on the card was the two miles five beginners' chase which was dominated by Willie Mullins. Victory went the way of Easy Game who got the better of stablemate Allaho by less than two lengths. While the pair were making their chasing debuts, the winner had the benefit of a run beforehand and that may have proved crucial. Despite his defeat, I thought Allaho shaped very well and would expect him to turn the tables if the pair meet again shortly. Keen enough in front, he jumped well and looked the most likely winner after the second last. Once headed on the run-in, he rallied well and was closing at the finish. Provided he learns to settle, he will come into his own once returning to three miles. The RSA Chase looks tailormade for him, especially on the 'easier' old course at Cheltenham compared to the Albert Bartlett NH (New course) in which he ran so well last season.
There have been plenty of Festival clues on offer during the last few days, especially for the handicaps, and I have made a note of these to include in the February Update.
“Thank you for a very successful and profitable email service. My personal highlight was the win of Aloomomo whose romp round Uttoxeter was a joy. Keep up the good work with all your services, the books and updates, they are simply the best by a very long way.”
“Just want to say thanks for running the service again this year, I have ended up with a nice £756 profit from it so I'm obviously very happy with that so thanks a lot!”
“Thanks for your email Mark would just like to say your selections and insight has been awesome. Keep up the good work sir your service is the best.”
“Thank you for an excellent tipping service throughout the three months. It has been a pleasure and profitable to be a member of your service. Your indepth knowledge and analysis of the race has been excellent. I honestly rate your service as one of the best and most profitable.”
“Thanks very much for the fantastic service you have supplied, I have been involved with racing tipsters for over 30 years and never had as good a strike rate as yourself, out of this world.”
“The email service as usual has been brilliant and this season's OJA seems to continue to unearth amazing insight if you have the time to trust and follow it in detail over a period. Thanks as always for your outstanding value for money publications.”
“Superb information again Mark, I managed to get some 11/4, will certainly pay for Xmas. Different class.”
“Awesome result the magicman strikes again. Won with plenty in hand and not a moments worry great write up spot on again and results speak for themselves best service I've tried, keep up the fantastic work sir. Very happy customer!”
Mark Howard Publications Ltd.
69 Fairgarth Drive