Trials day is usually not just a name and we likely saw some strong festival clues at Cheltenham on Saturday, but there was strong action elsewhere, including at Doncaster and Fairyhouse on Saturday.
Paisley Park stood out with his remarkable Cleeve Hurdle win despite giving away plenty of ground at the start, while Stattler shot to favoritism for the National Hunt Chase after a gutsy win at Naas on Sunday.
However, here are five less obvious Cheltenham clues which emerged from a wonderful weekend of action.
Gordon Elliott won the Kim Muir in 2020 with a horse who finished second in the 2m5½f beginners’ chase at Fairyhouse in late January, and I think he might do likewise in 2022 with a horse who finished runner-up in the very same race.
Milan Native, the 2020 winner, chased home Allaho at Fairyhouse, and on Saturday Frontal Assault was second to stablemate Floueur and shaped as though he was crying out for a step up in trip.
All three of Frontal Assault’s efforts over fences have been over inadequate trips – 2m3½f, 2m4f and 2m5½f. He needed every yard of the 3m trip when winning a Grade 3 over hurdles at Navan last season and 3m2f around Cheltenham should see him come right into his own.
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Frontal Assault: could be dangerous in the Kim Muir with the 3m2f trip
Given Blur is rated 136, Frontal Assault is likely to get a mark in the mid-130s in Ireland and he could turn out to be very well handicapped in the Kim Muir. He was 16-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power on Sunday night and that looked cracking value to me.
You might not necessarily expect to see festival clues at Sedgefield but Anyharminasking strikes me as an ideal type for the Martin Pipe and the 16-1 bet365 are offering looks very generous.
He odd justifieds-on favoritism in the 2m1f handicap hurdle in fine style for Jonjo O’Neill off a mark of 127. He won by five lengths but could have won by ten.
His claim to fame is beating Constitution Hill in a point-to-point and a step up in trip should bring about further improvement in him.
Sunday’s win should see him raised into the upper 130s and that looks just about perfect for the Martin Pipe. It is interesting O’Neill has not yet stepped him up in trip. He could be waiting until the perfect time to do so.
Judging by the festival markets, he would appear the Kim Muir is Grand Paradis’s main aim after his unlucky second at Fairyhouse on Saturday but I’m not sure he’s the stoutest stayer and would love to see him in the Paddy Power Plate.
Grand Paradis is as short as 8-1 favorite for the Kim Muir but I would much prefer the 25-1 available for the Paddy Power Plate. That looks his trip to me.
Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
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Gran Paradiso: ideal trip could be in the Paddy Power Plate
Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
He traveled like the best horse in the race in the opening beginners chase at Fairyhouse over 2m5½f but was hampered at the last and had to settle for second. The way he moved to the second-last suggests he is quite a classy operator and is one to keep on your side for a festival handicap. He remains unexposed and open to any amount of improvement.
The Grade 3 Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse usually throws up clues for the mares’ novices hurdle at the festival and Saturday was no different with Allegorie De Vassy now favorite after an emphatic win.
The only reason that win was so assertive was because joint-favorite Brandy Love kept jumping violently left. There may be a deeper issue as to why she did that but going left-handed around Cheltenham will be much more her cup of tea and I certainly wouldn’t bet against her reversing Saturday’s form with the winner, especially since she is going to be getting 3lb from her at Cheltenham.
It is hard to believe she was only beaten three and a half lengths given just how much ground she forfeited with her waywardness at every hurdle.
Britzka is still my idea of the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle winner, but Champion Green is going to be a big player judging by what we saw from him at Naas on Sunday.
His jumping was better and he moved through the race like he had learned from his past experiences. Joseph O’Brien knows what it takes to win the race having done so with Band Of Outlaws and he looks to have a leading contender again.
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Champion Green: Sunday winner could be key player at the festival