What a tough nut to crack Overturn proved when beating Binocular in Newcastle's Fighting Fifth Hurdle last weekend.
This was his second high-profile win on consecutive weekends and he is a real star for connections. His trainer Donald McCain has options with him now he proved his stamina at Ascot last weekend over two and a half miles. He is 20/1 for the Champion Hurdle with Sky Bet and 14/1 for the World Hurdle. McCain had another great weekend as Peddler's Cross continued his chasing education with a straightforward win at Bangor earlier in the day. He is now 7/2 with Sky Bet for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March and he looks a real pro over the fences.
There couldn't have been a more popular winner of the Hennessy than Carruthers. Mark Bradstock's chaser had slid down the handicap and the application of a tongue tie also seemed to help him as he galloped on strongly to the line under Mattie Batchelor to beat Planet of Sound, Fair Along and Great Endeavour - the latter didn't see out the three and a quarter mile trip. Carruthers is now 10/1 for the Welsh National. Also at Newbury there were no surprises in the Long Distance Hurdle with Big Buck's winning his 13th successive race over hurdles. He is 4/7 for a repeat win in the World Hurdle in March and barring injury he looks impossible to beat with last season's main rival Grand Crus now chasing. Like Peddlers Cross, Grand Crus also won on his second start over fences and he is now 4/1 and still heads the market for the RSA Chase.
It's a toss-up between Wishfull Thinking and Kauto Stone each way, who is already being compared to his half-brother Kauto Star
Quotes of the week
Another horse to make an impression at the Hennessy meeting was Bobs Worth, who won the Grade Two Novices' Chase over two-and-a-half miles on Friday, beating Cue Card. Bobs Worth is now 8/1 second favourite with Sky Bet for the RSA Chase. Cue Card maybe a more likely candidate for something like the Jewson Novices' Chase at the festival as he seemed to be outstayed by the winner. However, it's worth bearing in mind Bobs Worth was receiving 7lbs from Cue Card who had a penalty for his chase debut success at Chepstow.
There is plenty of jumping action to look forward to this weekend with the feature race the Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday. Paul Nicholls has made this race his own in recent years and he can make it a seventh consecutive win in the Grade One if either one of his two runners Tataniano (100/30) and Kauto Stone (6/1) are victorious.
Sam Thomas has been booked for the unexposed Kauto Stone and Ruby Walsh has picked Tataniano. Tataniano was the impressive eight-length winner of a 2m handicap chase at Chepstow in October and takes the step back into Grade One company (he won a Grade One Novice at Aintree's National meeting in the spring of 2010). Champion Chase winner Sizing Europe stands in his way though - he heads the market at 7/4. He has been plying his trade over further than two miles on his last two outings and won over two and a half on his penultimate run.
Wishfull Thinking is 7/2 for Philip Hobbs - he drops to two miles having made the running in the two and a half mile Paddy Power before fading. He is a natural frontrunner, but connections have said in the past they thought he may even want three miles so it's hard to know what to make of him over this trip against top class opposition. Hobbs said he would come on for the outing in the Paddy Power as he was still quite stuffy there and he has had problems with his breathing, but this is a horse with lots of pace and I'd love to see him run well.
Gauvin (10/1) is a bit of a character but comes here off the back of a nice win - he has a bit to find with the principles though. This is a typically tough race to call and for me it's a toss-up between Wishfull Thinking and Kauto Stone each way, who is already being compared to his half-brother Kauto Star and has only had the one start so far for Paul Nicholls. Kauto Stone will only run though if there is rain. Whatever happens this race will have a bearing on the Champion Chase market so if you fancy any of the above for the Cheltenham two miler it might be best to get on now!
Becher Chase contenders
The Becher Chase is run over three and a quarter miles over the Grand National fences and in recent years Amberleigh House and Silver Birch have won this en-route to National glory. Fifteen horses have been declared for the race, Hello Bud comes back for more having won this 12 months ago and Always Waining has another crack at these big fences having won the Topham for the past two years (his trainer, Peter Bowen, also had Ballyvesey who he hopes will be a National horse one day).
Hello Bud is favourite with Sky Bet at 7/1 just ahead of Another Palm at 8s. Always Waining is another 8/1 shot. Dessie Hughes has a decent record in this race having won it with Black Apalachi in 2008 and Vic Venturi in 2009 - he saddles 10/1 chance Rare Bob who has his first sight of these fences (he is generally a solid jumper). Paul Nicholls will be hoping for a big race double and he has Niche Market declared and he is a 9/1 chance for Harry Skelton. The horse already has experience of these fences as he has run in the National for the past two years and was fifth back in April for Saturday's jockey.
Nicto de Beauchene is 11/1 for Victor Dartnall, he ran a better race on his reappearance with blinkers on for the first time and he wears them once again - if he is starting to think too much then these fences will give him some trouble and they can often be the making of a horse. Mad Max has always had plenty of ability but he has never quite realised his potential and has been plagued with breathing problems. He is one of just a few horses nowadays who has been 'tubed' - a breathing operation that inserts a tube into the throat to help the horse breathe easier.
You shouldn't write off horses who have had that op though, as Party Politics was one of the more famous winners to have had it done successfully. Mad Max has plenty of weight but shouldn't be ruled out on his first start for trainer Neil Mulholland. At 14/1 Swing Bill deserves a mention for the David Pipe team who have been having a good run of big results. The horse jumped well when fifth in the Topham back in April and he is a very consistent horse. He is 7lbs higher in the handicap than when he won at Cheltenham on his penultimate outing but if he jumps well again he isn't to be discounted.
It will be a good training performance if 14/1 shot Abbeybraney can win for Nicky Richards. The horse has his first start for Nicky having previously been in the care of Howard Johnson. He's been with his new handler for five-six weeks. The horse hasn't run since pulling up in the four miler at Cheltenham in March 2010 because of leg problems. It's another tough race, but I'm going with Swing Bill each way.
Trio at Fairyhouse
There are three Grade One races at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle is the first of them and Sous Les Cieux is the likely favourite for Willie Mullins who has always held this horse in the highest regard. Although he won his maiden over two and a half miles, Mullins said he wouldn't be afraid to drop him back to two miles and in fact he wouldn't be afraid to run him anywhere! He apparently goes very well at home.
Galileo's Choice would be one his most interesting opponents for Dermot Weld. This horse is a Group Three winner on the flat and won his only start over hurdles at Galway in July. Il Fenomeno has won his last two for Noel Meade - he was a useful horse on the flat in Italy and won a Group Three. He has had a lot more racing experience than the other two and he is battle hardy, but I wonder if he is vulnerable to one of the other two here. It's very hard to get away from the favourite and he will be hard to beat, Galileo's Choice is his main danger I think.
The Drinmore Novice Chase is the next Grade One on the card and I hope First Lieutenant runs here. This is one of my horses to follow this season and he is already 10/1 with Sky Bet for the RSA Chase. He won the Neptune Investment Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham for Mouse Morris and the trainer has already sent him out to win twice this Autumn over fences. Although his trainer isn't keen to take on the big guns yet I have been waiting to see him step up in grade again and if he runs I'll be with him.
The Hatton's Grace Hurdle is the final Grade One on the card and the versatile Thousand Stars is favourite, again for Willie Mullins. He has been in great form and won the Morgiana last time out. Mullins said after that victory that he would prefer to stay at two miles so he may be vulnerable here. I'm going to take a chance on Colm Murphy's top mare Voler La Vedette who is bidding for her first win at the highest level. She is a course and distance winner and was impressive when winning a Grade Two at Navan with the tongue tie on for the first time - with that run under her belt she can step up to the plate.
A horse to watch out for on Friday at Sandown is Fingal Bay who runs in the Winter Novices' Hurdle. Hobbs' exciting hurdler is 8/1 favourite for both the Neptune and Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham with Sky Bet. Hobbs said after his latest win he could be as good as anything he has trained and he is a very straightforward individual. This looks a tough task but so far he has taken everything in his stride and the fact Hobbs ran him in the Persian War Novices' Hurdle on his debut over obstacles speaks volumes.
Wishfull Thinking in the Tingle Creek @ 7/2 with Sky Bet
Swing Bill in the Becher Chase @ 14/1 with Sky Bet (each way)
Sous Les Cieux in the Royal Bond Hurdle
First Lieutenant in the Drinmore Novice Chase
Voler La Vedette in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle