ASCOT hosted a cracking card on Friday, and it didn’t disappoint with a number of horses staking their claims for the Cheltenham Festival.
DIVINE SPEAR extended his unbeaten run over fences with a win in the Stella Artois Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s chaser impressed as he drew clear of the field.
Connections are now eyeing up a run in the Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase next March.
Henderson said: “That was good because he wants two and a half (miles).
“I was nervous about coming back to two and a bit but it just didn’t look the strongest race and it looked a nice race for him.
“I’d like to think he can creep into the two-and-a-half-mile novice handicap at the Festival but we have got to judge it right.”
CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN was cut to 12-1 from 20-1 with Sun Bets for Supreme Hurdle glory after his win in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Trial.
Henderson was enjoying a successful day at Ascot and was thrilled with the performance from the improving hurdler.
Henderson to reign Supreme again?
Sun Bets go 12-1 for Claimantakinforgan to win the opening contest of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
“I’m pleased as that is not his ground and he has got gears and he is a two-mile horse.
“We will be looking down the Supreme road. He has got some scope. He has got a very good head on him and he is a very good jumper. He has got a good racing brain on him.”
BENATAR threw his hat into the Festival ring as he got the better of the hot favourite FINIAN’S OSCAR in the Grade 2 Mitie Noel Novices’ Chase.
Connections had hoped Finian’s Oscar would take advantage of the drop in class but even this step up in trip was not enough as Benatar narrowly held on to win.
Winning trainer Gary Moore said: “My horse was over-racing. He was travelling too well.
“He could have done with a better gallop and the second horse was not jumping with his usual fluency and subsequently our has had to move up into the race earlier than he needed to.
“He has really stuck his neck out though and he wanted to win. He is a proper horse. I think he will get three miles. It was tough out there today and he has got the two-five OK.
Movers and shakers from the Mitie Noel Novices’ Chase
“We will have to see what the ground is at Cheltenham but we will enter him in the JLT and RSA and take it from there.
“I will have to go back and see what there is. He might have one more race before Cheltenham.
“He is up and coming and I do see him as a Ladbrokes Trophy horse one day.”
Colin Tizzard is set to step Finian’s Oscar up in trip again and apply headgear as he looks to restore his lofty reputation.
He said: “He was doing nothing the first mile, very much like he was at Sandown the other day.
“We will go up in trip and put some cheekpieces or blinkers on. As Bryan said it is not that he is ungenuine, he is just careful.
“We just need to straighten him up. He will go three miles now with something on his head, probably cheekpieces.”