THERE were Cheltenham Festival clues aplenty at the weekend’s International meeting at Prestbury Park. The New One grabbed most of the headlines and confirmed his status as favourite for the Champion Hurdle with a fluent success in the StanJames.com International Hurdle. I suspect the winning margin would have been bigger if he hadn’t rapped the final flight. But his now trademark turn of foot got him out of trouble as he came six lengths clear of the tough Zarkandar. He looks set to run in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and faces a possible clash with My Tent Or Yours. That would be a festive treat for National Hunt purists.
The New One was trimmed to 3/1 from 7/2 by Stan James and Coral although there is still some 7/2 available. That is plenty short enough when you look at the quality of some of his potential Champion Hurdle rivals.
Ballyalton and Kings Palace are two lovely young horses and they did plenty to boost their Festival credentials with impressive victories and although Sam Winner won the 3m novice chase on Saturday, the performance of Le Bec, who was giving him 8lb, was probably more impressive in finishing second. By the way, hats off to Daryl Jacob, who gave Sam Winner the type of positive ride that he has been crying out for.
But the most interesting horse to force his way into the Cheltenham Festival ante-post market was More Of That, who was mightily impressive in winning the Relkeel Hurdle on Saturday. Salubrious is a useful yardstick and the way More Of That brushed him aside up the hill suggested there is plenty More Of That in the locker! Stan James initially introduced him into the World Hurdle market at 14/1 but that went quickly and he is now 7s with them. William Hill have him at 10/1 while the best price available is 12/1 (Boylesports and SkyBet).
However, plans are fluid and Jonjo O’Neill said he would sit down with AP McCoy to discuss possible targets. It will be interesting to see if he goes down the novice hurdle route or whether AP and Jonjo think he’s good enough to challenge Big Buck’s, Solwhit and At Fishers Cross in the World Hurdle.