Who are this weekend's key runners with Cheltenham in mind?

Festival Fever: The key weekend runners with the Cheltenham Festival (and Aintree) in mind

Ben Linfoot picks out six horses that could enhance their Cheltenham and Aintree claims during the action at Kempton and Fairyhouse on Saturday.

Saturday February 27 - ONES TO WATCH

PETIT MOUCHOIR – 1.45 Fairyhouse

Petit Mouchoir in his old silks

With the County Hurdle the plan for PETIT MOUCHOIR it will be interesting to see just how he fares in the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

The 10-year-old was a 164-rated Grade 1 winner in his pomp for Henry de Bromhead, but his final run for his old trainer was a good third off a mark of 155 (7lb claimer on board) in the Galway Hurdle last July.

Still rated that number in Ireland, the Festival weights are released next Wednesday and he’ll be an intriguing runner in the County provided he’s not handicapped out of things.

TAMAROC DU MATHAN – 1.50 Kempton

Paul Nicholls trains Tamaroc Du Mathan

TAMAROC DU MATHAN does not have any fancy Cheltenham entries and like so many horses of this type trained by Paul Nicholls, perhaps the Festival is not for him at this stage of his career.

He is in the Grand Annual, though, and he looks a prime candidate for Aintree, so his progress is well worth monitoring in the Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase.

A 13-length second to Shishkin over two miles at the same track last time out, he steps up to two and a half miles for the first time over fences.

TRITONIC – 2.25 Kempton

Tritonic (left) - made winning hurdling debut

The Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle could offer late JCB Triumph Hurdle clues and perhaps even a form line for the Boodles Fred Winter as well.

TRITONIC puts forward his claims for the former and there was plenty to like about his hurdling debut as he reeled in Casa Loupi, who reopposes, at Ascot.

Honneur D’Ajonc might have beaten Heross Du Seuil when falling at the track here last time out and he could be one to keep tabs on with the Fred Winter in mind, given he qualifies just in the nick of time this being his third run.

BURROWS SAINT – 2.52 Fairyhouse

Ruby Walsh celebrates aboard Burrows Saint

Willie Mullins used the Bobbyjo Chase as a successful Randox Grand National prep for Hedgehunter in 2005 and he’s tried to repeat the trick since with the likes of Pleasant Company, as well.

In fact, he’s won the Bobbyjo on 10 occasions and he could win it again with BURROWS SAINT on Saturday as he goes into the race as the highest-rated horse, while he knows Fairyhouse well being an Irish National winner.

He’s had a quiet campaign over hurdles so far, but the Grand National has been his aim for a long time, so expect to see the best of him now he tackles a fence again with the weights out for the big one.

ATHOLL STREET – 3.00 Kempton

Irving won the Sky Bet Dovecote for Nicholls

Paul Nicholls has won the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle four times in the past with St Pirran, Escort’men, Irving and Southfield Stone and he looks to have a likely contender once again in Trevor Hemmings’ ATHOLL STREET.

The son of Jeremy won at a canter when hacking up by 16 lengths at Taunton last time, his second hurdling win at the track from two goes, and while this represents a significant step up in grade he has the best form heading into this race.

Perhaps he can beef up the home-trained challenge in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, although no horse has won both the Dovecote and the Festival opener since Nicky Henderson’s Flown in 1992 and Nicholls is seemingly targeting Aintree over Cheltenham.

CAP DU NORD – 3.35 Kempton

Cap Du Nord could enhance his chances of getting in the National

CAP DU NORD has been in consistent form all season and has run a couple of cracking races in defeat since he bolted up at Newbury on his second start of the campaign.

His best effort was probably his second to Royale Pagaille at this track in December, form that was somewhat boosted subsequently by the winner at Haydock, while Cap Du Nord ran well himself next time out in the Sky Bet Chase, where he was third.

He’s in the Cross County Chase at Cheltenham, but the Randox Grand National looks the target for him and, given his rating of 142, he’s right on the cusp of getting in the Aintree race.

A win on Saturday wouldn’t mean a penalty in the National, but it would give him the edge over the others on his perch. And if he wins this well he could go into Aintree with plenty in hand.


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