Ed Chamberlin channels his inner Bruno Brookes (kids ask your dad) and counts down his five favourite performances of the weekend.
5. Marracudja - bet365 Scottish Champion Handicap Chase
We’ve been saying for some time how good Bryony Frost is and this victory at Musselburgh was the 40th of her career. As a result, her claim was cut from five to three pounds. We no longer talk of her being a female rider, just a really good jockey, and with the momentum she has there must be every chance her smile can light up Cheltenham next month after a Festival winner.
Her success, along with those of Rachel Blackmore at Leopardstown on Patricks Park and Rachel McDonald’s bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase win aboard Full Jack, were further proof of the rise of women jockeys in jumps racing – in the same week a study confirmed what we’ve been seeing for a long time – they're as good as their male counterparts.
4. Footpad - Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase Leopardstown
It will be no surprise that the top four all hail from the Dublin Racing Festival and the success of the new fixture will have people back in Britain thinking over what they can do to spark life into the mid-winter programme. I was there on Sunday and it was very special.
Footpad is as natural a novice chaser as I’ve seen for some time and forms part of a serious battalion of horses Simon Munir and Isaac Souede have to go into battle with at Cheltenham. He’ll take a lot of beating in the Racing Post Arkle.
3. Min - Coral Dublin Chase Leopardstown
He was very impressive in gaining his revenge over Simply Ned and beating Yorkhill out of sight. Cheltenham needs big match-ups – sadly it doesn’t look like we’ll get one in the Unibet Champion Hurdle after Faugheen’s defeat in the Irish Champion – but it’s game on in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Altior is on target to return in front of the ITV cameras at Newbury on Saturday and connections will know they have a race on their hands after Min looked right back to his best at Leopardstown, really impressing with how he travelled and jumped.
2. Edwulf Unibet Gold Cup - Leopardstown
I watched this race alongside JP McManus and his face was one of pure joy as Edwulf crossed the line. It’s no wonder. What a story. This was a horse who collapsed at Cheltenham last year and connections feared the worst so full marks to all the people who played a part in his story, saving him that day, bringing him back into training and capping it all with Sunday’s Grade One win. A genuinely remarkable achievement.
1. Samcro Deloitte Novice Hurdle - Leopardstown
I’ve been hoping for some time this horse is a monster having got caught up in the hype back in November that he was the next coming. These things seldom work out but he looked a superstar on Sunday. I spoke to Michael O’Leary at length afterwards but couldn’t get out of him what race he wants to run in at Cheltenham – he just kept saying we need to keep him sound.
It’s wonderful that we have an Irish banker – in the traditional sense of the word – heading to the Festival in March. He’s following in the hoofprints of the likes of Danoli and Istabraq and just imagine the roar if he hits the front going to the last in whichever race they plump for.