Previous Cheltenham Festival Trials Day winners repeated the dose at Prestbury Park as Santini and Paisley Park scored success on the road back to Britain’s premier jumps meeting in March.
Santini, who landed the Classic Novices’ Hurdle on this card two years ago, returned to the Cotswolds and won the 3m 1f Grade 2 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s charge beat last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third Bristol De Mai by 3 1/2 lengths. The front pair pulled well clear of the remainder.
Although he hit two out, Santini did precious little else wrong in advertising his claims for the blue riband event of steeplechasing.
Seven Barrows handler Henderson has trained him with the long-term career aim of capturing the Gold Cup.
The reaction from bookmakers to Santini’s success on Cheltenham Festival Trials Day has been lukewarm, however, with his odds only clipped a couple of points.
He now has two course victories from four starts. Cotswold Chase winners have a poor record of going on to the Gold Cup.
Frodon, who won the race 12 months, did come out and land the Ryanair Chase though, so it’s not necessarily a barrier to Festival glory.
Santini’s stablemate Monte Cristo flopped on UK debut in the Grade 2 Finesse Juvenile Hurdle, meanwhile.
Sent off odds-on, he faded up the Cheltenham hill in this Triumph Hurdle trial and finished fourth to Galahad Quest.
Trained by Nick Williams, the winner was produced late and only needed driving out to score by a length.
Galahad Quest remains a big price for the Triumph and the Grade 3 juvenile handicap hurdle held at the Festival – best known as the Fred Winter.
Paisley Park repeats Cheltenham Festival Trials Day victory in Cleeve
In the same week that Benie Des Dieux won a valuable 3m hurdles prize at Gowran Park, British champion stayer Paisley Park retained his crown in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle.
Whether the pair clash in the Stayers’ Hurdle remains to be seen, but Emma Lavelle’s stable star is now seven unbeaten.
Relkeel Hurdle winner Summerville Boy made the running in the Cleeve. Mistakes over the final two flights let an improving Paisley Park in.
He stayed on from the last and made it three wins from four over the Stayers’ Hurdle course and distance.
Paisley Park ran out a 1 1/4 lengths victor, so most bookies have him odds-on to score at the Festival again.
Summerville Boy also saw his price for the Stayers’ Hurdle slashed. Previous second-favourite If The Cap Fits was only a below par fifth in the Cleeve, though.
He has seen his odds drift as a result following a disappointing Cheltenham Festival Trials Day for trainer Harry Fry.
Stable companion King Roland was sent off favourite for the Classic Novices’ Hurdle, another Grade 2 over an extended 2m 4f, but then turned over by Harry Senior.
Colin Tizzard has a talented crop of novice hurdlers at his disposal. The challenge will be keeping them apart at the Festival.
King Roland didn’t pick up when headed approaching the last by the Brocade Racing owned horse.
Jockey Sean Bowen said he felt his mount raced too freely. Previous course and distance winner Protektorat was back in third under a 5lb penalty.
Past winners of this Ballymore trial include Wichita Lineman, Bobs Worth, At Fishers Cross, Yanworth and Wholestone.
Minella Melody and Carefully Selected advertise claims in Ireland
Away from Cheltenham Festival Trials Day, Minella Melody completed her hat-trick over obstacles in a very competitive 2m 2f Grade 3 novice hurdle for mares at Fairyhouse.
Trainer Henry De Bromhead won the race 12 months ago with Honeysuckle. He was successful again.
Minella Melody had to hold off three Willie Mullins trained rivals, including Grade 1 bumper winner Colreevy who made a mistake under pressure at the last.
Dolcita, previously favourite for the Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, was back in third.
She has eased in the market with Minella Melody now disputing affairs at the head of the betting with the Henderson trained Marie’s Rock. De Bromhead is no stranger to Festival success either.
The yard is also having a fine season in Ireland. Minella Melody must be respected if turning up at Cheltenham – although there is a Grade 1 back at Fairyhouse over Easter to consider as well.
At Naas, Stormy Ireland completed a seasonal hat-trick in the 2m Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle. This was a productive Sunday for Mullins that saw him saddle four winners.
Stormy Ireland has been clipped for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. She was runner-up in that race last year.
National Hunt Chase favourite Carefully Selected wasn’t entirely convincing in his victory in a 3m Grade 3 event.
This win qualifies him to run at the Festival, but his jumping lacked fluency on his way around Naas.
Some of the mistakes Carefully Selected made will be punished on an undulating track like Cheltenham. Bookmakers have shortened him up for the National Hunt Chase regardless, however.
Gordon Elliott – Mullins’ rival in the Irish National Hunt trainers’ championship – will have something for this Grade 2 contest over 3m 6f for amateur riders and novice chasers at the Festival.