We enjoyed a fantastic weekend of action on Racing TV and here are four names to note - including a couple of potential Cheltenham Festival contenders - from the cards at Wincanton, Haydock, Newbury and Navan.
Race: Fourth in the Betway ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle (1.05pm, Wincanton)
This youngster shaped with more encouragement here on his first start for 75 days having looked in need of experience on his first two starts last year.
Colin Tizzard’s charge failed to jump with any fluency on his first run over hurdles when last seen but produced a more polished round of jumping in this 1m7f novices’ hurdle before tiring late on.
He’s entitled to strip fitter with this run under his belt and will have surely found the trip on the sharp side, given he is related to horses best suited over 2m4f-plus, and is a half-brother to Nicky Henderson’s Monbeg Legend.
The five-year-old still isn’t the finished article, and is one to keep an eye on as he gains more expereince, especially when upped in trip - Harry Allwood
Race: Second in the William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle (2.05pm, Haydock)
Rebecca Curtis’ stable star bounced back to form following two below-par runs this season and a wind op since his last start appears to have helped.
This was Lisnagar Oscar’s first start for 85 days, and Curtis said that last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner missed five weeks of training due to undergoing wind surgery, and also suffering a slice in his leg.
“I’m really pleased with that. We gave him a wind op and it’s clearly worked. I’m delighted,” Curtis said afterwards, and all roads lead back to the Cheltenham Festival now.
The eight-year-old shaped as though he would improve for the run at Haydock as he had most of his rivals toiling at the start of the home straight before finding Third Wind, who had the benefit of race fitness and was carrying 6lb less, too good.
Lisnagar Oscar is now a best-priced 20-1 to defend his crown on March 18, and although he will face Paisley Park and Thyme Hill, you could argue he is a shade over-priced, especially if the ground was soft which he appears best suited by - Harry Allwood
Race: Sixth in the Betfair Hurdle (3.35pm, Newbury)
The 14-1 chance was taken off his feet in the early stages of the Betfair Hurdle but finished with a real rattle for sixth and looks a handicapper to note, especially up in trip.
While a winner on handicap debut on his previous start, he was essentially at the head of affairs behind a runaway leader at Sandown weith the time and space to get into a jumping rhythm at his own speed. That was not the case on Saturday, where he was ostensibly lit up given the early fractions and his proiximity to horses at the back of the field.
His jumping was also compromised given the early pressure, yet its to his credit that he remained in the race. There was only one behind him on the approach to the three-furlong marker, yet he was strongest at the finsh and remarkably was only beaten seven lengths.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is not shy at aiming for a big target, and the extra furlong of the County Hurdle on the New Course at Cheltenham could beckon next. If he goes up a few pounds from his current rating of 135, he's potentially weighted to ruin a nice race in the fiendishly competitive Cheltenham Festival handicap. He'a also likely to have a Coral Cup entry - Tom Thurgood
Race: Third in the Flower Hill (Pro/Am) I.N.H Flat Race (5.10pm, Navan)
This imposing six-year-old strode clear under young claiming rider Conor Rabbit with just over half-way to run in the finale at Navan on Sunday and showed he possesses a fair level of ability by sticking on for third in very testing conditions.
He looked like being swallowed up as the field came from behind at the top of the straight, but he kept to his task gamely despite showing greenness off the bridle and clearly finishing tired.
Trainer Stuart Crawford is known for his bumper forays in Britain, but he doesn't have many bumper winners in Ireland in an admittedly competitive sphere (the winner here was €470,000 buy Ginto) so this debut from The Flier Begley under rules augurs well.
This is a real three-mile chaser in the making and hopefully he doesn't reappear too quickly after this racecourse debut. He can win his bumper in testing conditions, especially if ridden with a little more restraint - Tom Thurgood
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