What This Weekend Has Meant For The Cheltenham Festival - 07/01/2019

What This Weekend Has Meant For The Cheltenham Festival - 07/01/2019

With trials day still to come this month, the weekend just passed did do one thing - help provide a clearer picture of the novice hurdle division, with the Festival now approaching.

Leading the quality of contests was the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday, which looked a tricky puzzle beforehand. The Colin Tizzard-trained Elixir De Nutz proved he was the toughest nut to crack by holding on gamely on the flat, after Grand Sancy launched a late challenge on the run-in.

Southfield Stone did not overall disgrace in third, but less can be said for Nicky Henderson's Rathhill who was sent off the 6/5f, and lost ground with half-a-mile still to travel.

Battleoverdoyen won smartly in a similar contest in Ireland on Sunday, and has joined Elixir De Nutz at the fore-front of the betting for the Supreme Novice - the opening race at the Cheltenham Festival.

Gordon Elliott's 6yo is now as short as 8/1, whilst Colin Tizzard's 5yo - who has already won twice at Cheltenham this season from the front end, is best priced at 10/1.

Rathhill has drifted out to odds as big as 25/1.

Also on the card, Torpillo consolidated his claims for being crowned Champion 4yo in the JCB Triumph at Cheltenham, with a win in the Juvenile Hurdle, beating the unfortunate-pronounced Fukuto.

Laurina finally made her reappearance in a match-up in the Mares Listed hurdle, with many saying a yard gallop at home would have sufficed the same sort of treatment as the race on Saturday, and she outclassed Noel Williams' Sensulano from a very early stage.

The 6yo mare could now head straight to the Champion Hurdle, where she is the current-second favourite to Buveur D'Air, and it appears that Ruby Walsh has already made his mind up on who wants to ride, in preference to the likes of Melon and Sharjah. Laurina is priced between 7/2 and 3/1 for the Grade One showpiece on Day One.

Willie Mullins, who has saddled winners such as Yorkhill, Black Hercules and Vautou in the Ryanair Chase, was the king of the race until Gordon Elliott broke that feat ten months ago with the mare Shattered Love.

Delta Work in the same ownership as the latter is now as short as 6/1, with the trio of Defi Du Seuil, Lostintranslation, and the mare La Bague Au Roi all 7/1 chances.