By Richard Hoiles
Despite the small fields the headline acts very much delivered over the weekend as the likes of Native River, Altior, Saint Calvados and Kalashnikov all contributed to the UK really organising its challenge against the Irish battalions of Samcro, Footpad and Min, who had strutted their stuff at the Dublin Festival the week before.Is Saint Calvados a legitimate Arkle hope after his win at Warwick on Saturday?
It will be interesting to see whether this new Irish consolidation of several well contested features on one weekend five weeks before Cheltenham proves a better preparation than the small field tactical events that have prevailed on this side of the Irish Sea over the last month.
There were at least two decent horses in each of the trials this weekend, but it is a thin line to tread when the withdrawal of just one horse could result in the sort of non event that Buveur D’Air won the previous weekend.
Such small fields are much harder to assess in terms of achievement. Did Native River impress just because Cloudy Dream clearly does not stay and Saphir De Rheu was not fit or was it the performance of a Gold Cup winner?
There is no doubt that Nico De Boinville won the tactical battle with Sam Twiston-Davies on Politologue, a horse whose sometimes weak finishing tendencies makes him extremely unlikely to be seen to best effect by making the running.
Altior’s jumping was imperious and he may well have won anyway such could be his superiority over all but an on-song Douvan in this division but he benefitted from having a rival to aim at.
Either way the last two weekends have fulfilled their main objectives of setting up plenty of Festival interest.
The weather has again forced me into focusing on Southwell and here are a few fancies.
Being reunited with 5lb claimer Seb Woods will help Ingleby Spring’s mark and he is weighted to confirm recent form with 9-4 favourite Star Ascending.
The query is the trip of 1m 4f after his last run when fifth over it but without a claim it could equally have been the handicap mark holding him back.
At this time of year with the limited horse population it is possible for horses to defy rising in the handicap for longer than in the regular season.
Angel Palanas could be a case in point, having formed a great association with young Russell Harris who has kept things simple, sitting handily and making the best of his way home turning in.
There will be competition for the lead via Best Tamayuz but hopefully Angel Palanas is in a rich vein of form and can win again.
Charlie Fellowes is a young trainer on the up and hopefully he has found a good opportunity for Light Laughter in one of the shallowest races on the card.
The fact her runs have been well spaced suggest she might not have been the easiest to train so the fact she is turned out quite quickly on only her second start for the yard bodes well, as does the booking of Jason Watson who looks a very promising apprentice.
This five-year-old needs to start quicker than last time when finishing last from a wide draw at the course last month but if doing so could get the run of the race close to the stands rail.
He has not been eligible for this grade for quite a while and both stall one and such a rapid return from a wind operation have to raise queries over 3-1 favourite Archimedes, who will however benefit from a return to 5f.
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