With just a few weeks to go until we hear the roar erupt around Prestbury Park once more, here’s our review of how the key horses fared from last weekend.
Despite only competing against 2 other runners, Altior faced a stiff test from Desert Orchid Chase winner Politologue. It was a test Altior passed with flying colours. It seemed, in the approach to the last that it was going to be a close finish, with Altior hitting a momentary flat spot. However, a few strides later Nicky Henderson’s superstar took off and pulled away with jockey Nico de Boinville hardly having to touch him.
This sets up a thrilling clash with Willie Mullins’ Min in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase in a rematch of the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle when Altior emerged on top. For many, Altior represents the best horse trained in Great Britain.
Currently Altior heads the market at odds of 4-6 with Min generally priced at 9-4.
Last year's Gold Cup third Native River returned from 330 days off the track to show a prolonged absence from action had done nothing to blunt the weaponry of this powerful stayer, who pulled well clear of the race-fit Cloudy Dream to land the Denman Chase.
Fans of the horse will now hope that he can improve on last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third place as a result of a lighter campaign to last year’s. On that front, trainer Colin Tizzard was confident stating “He hasn't had a hard race, while the rest of the Gold Cup horses have had some real humdingers.”
Native River is generally joint second favourite for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup with last year's winner, Sizing John at odds of 6-1. Nicky Henderson's Might Bite heads the market at odds of 7-2.
The superstar in Harry Whittington’s yard put in a superbly impressive performance to destroy his three rivals from the front in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick.
The five year old is now best-price 8-1 for the Racing Post Arkle with Willie Mullins’ Footpad a strong favourite for the race and classy duo Petit Mouchoir and Sceau Royal also more fancied than Saint Calvados.
(Click here for more info on Cheltenham betting offers)
The biggest betting race of the weekend, The Betfair Hurdle was won by the dogged Kalashnikov who is proving to be a real weapon for Britain’s youngest trainer, Amy Murphy.
Ridden by Jack Quinlan, the other half of a youthful trainer-jockey combination, Kalashnikov did not look to be enjoying the stamina-sapping ground when receiving plenty of encouragement by the halfway stage, but he never stopped responding to his rider's drives. Having taken the lead approaching the last, Kalashnikov battled on resolutely to earn the biggest victory of Murphy’s training career to date.
Kalashnikov's Cheltenham target has yet to be fixed with both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle possibilities. He can be backed for the Supreme at odds of 8-1 whilst is a far larger price for the Ballymore, generally found at 14-1 although longer prices can be found.