A smart path to Riches
Ian Brindle takes a closer look at some of the big hurdling performances of the weekend - you can watch them here too!
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There's little doubt that Sprinter Sacre and Flemenstar lit up the chasing division from an ante-post perspective but there were plenty of hurdlers to note from a fascinating weekend of action on both sides of the Irish Sea.
The absence of Waaheb meant that the listed event at Leopardstown lost some of its importance but the Grade 3 Stayers Novice Hurdle at Cork saw the well-regarded Road To Riches land the spoils for Noel Meade and Paul Carberry.
The bookmakers were never going to lay him at anything like a working man's price on the day, but they nearly got a result as the five-year-old almost prized defeat from the jaws of victory with a horrendous error at the last.
The fact that he was able to recover so quickly in such testing conditions suggests to me that he's got plenty of resolution in his make up and that he won't be found wanting if he's required to use it.
As with many of the Gigginstown bloodstock, he's clearly been bought with more than half an eye on the future and it was fascinating to hear that Meade had wanted to run the horse in a Grade 1 at Navan this weekend over 2m4f before being overruled by connections.
The Irish programme book is notoriously filled with many staying hurdles that attract a heady combination of decent pots and moderate fields, and on this evidence; Road To Riches is worthy of a pop at them.
Back in Britain, there were a number of novices to put in the notebook.
John Ferguson is not what you'd call your average "smaller trainer" and Buthelezi isn't your average recruit from the Flat.
The four-year-old was probably best remembered for running as a pacemaker in the 2011 St Leger when trained by John Gosden, but he performed way above those odds in that Group 1 event and he'd actually put up some fair performances over shorter distances prior to that appearance at Town Moor.
Perhaps that information had clearly escaped the attention of those jockeys that allowed Jack Quinlan to build up an uncontested lead in the Betfred New "30 Minute Limit" Coupon Maiden Hurdle at Aintree, and he soon made them pay.
The race produced a smart prospect in Cinders And Ashes last season, and bearing in mind that this run followed a 203-day absence, it was a spirited effort from a horse that presumably will be even better on a sounder surface.
Stable tours can notoriously produce the sort of clues that are more suited to cryptic crosswords rather than formbook analysis but plenty of people had taken the hint about Golden Hoof at Sandown.
Nicky Henderson seemed notably keen to play down the chances of him earlier this term, and though he may have got in close to a couple of his flights in the John Oakley 50th Birthday "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle, the gelding, who is part-owned by golfer Lee Westwood, completed his round in a fashion that was anything but below par.
While he isn't a novice, I couldn't help but be taken by Bear's Affair in the Betfred Mobile Lotto Handicap Hurdle at Aintree.
He travelled ominously well throughout the contest and will give his trainer plenty of headaches as to whether he returns to chasing or sticks over the smaller obstacles.
On this evidence, I could easily see him being the type that could run a big race in something like the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham.
Sandown's feature on Friday was the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle and punters were presented with a five-runner affair.
Given that this race has produced the likes of Barton, Fingal Bay and Inglis Drever in the past, it was natural to hope that we'd uncover something of note; and in spite of a moderate time figure, Taquin Du Seuil did the job.
He paid a fair complement to My Tent Or Yours in the process and it will be interesting to see if they meet up in either the Tolworth or the Challow Hurdle later in the season.