ANOTHER fascinating weekend of racing and Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) assesses the impact it's had on the Cheltenham markets.
Cheltenham Countdown | 19th December 2016
Another big weekends racing has finished and there were clues galore again for the end of season prizes, but who really caught the eye?
Let's start with UknowwhatImeanharry. He took another step up the staying hurdle ladder and now he's arguably reached the top of that division.
He travelled well and though Ballyoptic's fall at the last made his job easier UknowwhatImeanharry was always going to win. The market is a little confused now with uncertainty over the favourites likely destination but whatever turns up has UknowwhatImeanharry to beat.
I'm not sure I would be backing him ante-post just now but only as he's short priced given the amount of time until the race but he's a worthy contender.
Brain Power won Saturdays big handicap hurdle and is a horse very much on the up. After finishing down the field in the Greatwood on his seasonal debut he's since won two handicaps off big weights. Whether he is good enough for top level races is up for debate however he could be of interest in the County Hurdle later in the year.
Yorkhill made his debut over fences and as was expected he ran out a facile winner. I am a huge fan of this horse and the only time he's been beaten he was well over the top.
To me he would be the one to beat if he takes the Arkle route but I suspect he'll end up in the JLT. Willie Mullins has indicated he will run him sparingly this year and it's unlikely we'll know his Cheltenham target until nearer the time, so he's an ante-post blackspot at the moment.
Beveur D'Air made also made a winning debut over fences but there was a bit more substance to his victory. An easy victory over Cloudy Dream was a great introduction and despite receiving weight I think he is a cut above that rival.
He has a bit to find with the market leaders in the Arkle but he is young and improving. He could run in to the places in the Arkle but he is very much of interest for Aintree where he is already a Grade 1 winner.
On the flat Battalion won well in the Quebec Stakes and looks an improved performer who could be on the way up. However Grendisar was disappointing again and looks one to swerve for a while. He may improve for a bigger field and a truer gallop but he also may just not be the horse he was in the spring now he's pushing 7 years old.
The Navan Novice Hurdle was the race of the day on Sunday and seen some top staying novices and Death Duty ran out a good winner. He will be hard to beat wherever he ends up in March but I wouldn't write off Invitation Only just yet.
Already looking like he needs extreme distances he was off the bridle early but kept finding and wasn't beaten as far as it looked likely at one point. He will run over 3 miles next and I also expect them to make more use of him.
My horse to take from the weekend was Minella Daddy. Heavily backed before the race he looked likely to win two out but a loose horse prevented him jumping the last freely and it cost him all momentum. That was only his fourth start over fences and he's still off a nice mark. He seems to like cut in the ground so may be one to back on his next start rather than one to keep in mind for the spring.