ENERGUMENE cemented his place at the head of the Champion Chase market with an impressive comeback in a Cork Grade 2 at the weekend.
Willie Mullins’ defending champion looked a picture and never gave anyone crazy enough to back him at 1-9 a second’s worry.
That was no surprise yet he was trimmed from a biggest 6-4 to evens by William Hill, although most firms are a tad shorter.
The demise of Shishkin in the Tingle Creek has something to do with those cramped odds and Nicky Henderson’s hope is now 16-1 to take the Champion.
He’ll surely go up in distance now as he was outpaced at Sandown when the taps were turned on.
I’d be tempted to find him an easy race as a confidence-booster and see how he goes from there.
Sadly his Grade 1 days may be over but he’s achieved plenty whatever happens.
Edwardstone is the clear British hope after that brilliant Tingle Creek win that took many – myself included – by surprise.
He still looks a few pounds behind Energumene but it’s good that he has at least one serious rival.
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Honeysuckle’s unbeaten run came crashing to a halt in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse, with connections seeming to rule her out of the Champion Hurdle and lining up a tilt at the Mares’ Hurdle instead.
She did look something like the usual Honeysuckle for most of the way before not bounding home in her usual fashion.
The soft ground may have had something to do with that.
While a blow, I’m not sure the run was as bad as some are making out and 9-4 for the Mares’ Hurdle looks about right.
Epatante is 5s and looks the main challenger until we see what Brandy Love does on her return.
She has a fair gap to bridge with the big two.
Teahupoo bounced back from some modest runs last season to win that Hatton’s Grace and he is likely to be a stronger horse this season.
He looks a worthy challenger to Flooring Porter in the Stayers’ Hurdle – especially if there’s some give underfoot at the Festival.
With that in mind, you may want to wait and see how conditions are but 12-1 with Paddy Power looks tempting to small stakes given he’s only 8s in some places.
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