Cheltenham Trials Day And Doncaster Reaction

Betfred's Matt Hulmes reacts to all the major action from Saturday at Cheltenham and Doncaster
16:20, 28 Jan 2023

Festival Trials Day saw the first of two successive weekends that will seriously shake up the markets for those famous four days in March.

Next week, it’s the turn of the Irish at the Dublin Racing Festival, but for now we were paying attention to invaluable course form in the Cotswolds.


The Clarence House Chase gave us the two mile match that we all wanted to see, the Champion Energumene versus the pretender Edwardstone, but it didn’t develop as we thought.

Paul Townend and Tom Cannon seemed happy holding onto their stars behind the front running Editeur Du Gite and both had a few lengths to find turning for home. Energumene emptied first, making a serious blunder at the last while Edwardstone surged passed the leader. But Editeur Du Gite wasn’t going to be denied and rallied to get back up by a short head to cause a big shake-up to the two mile championship division.

The old course will suit the front two even more than the stamina laden New course in March. Editeur Du Gite was cut to 11/2 (from 20/1) to follow up in six weeks’ time, with Edwardstone the new 7/4 favourite. Energuemene drifted from 4/6 to 2/1, while his stablemate, Blue Lord, was cut to 7/2 without leaving his stable. He can enhance his claims next weekend at Leopardstown.

The Cotswold Chase also threw us a curve ball as the expected duel between Protektorat and Noble Yeats never really materialised and it was left to Ahoy Senoy to bulldoze his way round and outstay the field to land a 13/2 success for Lucinda Russell. Last year’s Festival Novices Chase runner-up has been disappointing so far this season but turned Many Clouds Chase form around with Noble Yeats despite making a few customary errors on the way round.

Sounds Russian is an admirable sort who always runs an honest race, and he was left to chase home the winner with Grand National hero Noble Yeats staying on two and a half lengths back in third.

The favourite, Protektorat, was keen for the entire first circuit and that appeared to take its toll in the latter stages, although was closing a little on the run to the line. He will need to settle much better if he is to improve on last year’s third in the Gold Cup.

In terms of the market, the fallout saw Ahoy Senor cut to 12/1 from 33/1 and Sounds Russian trimmed to 25/1 from 66/1.


Meanwhile, the two stronger fancied runners were eased. Noble Yeats was pushed out to 8/1 from 6/1 with Protektorat 14/1 from 8/1.

The Stayers’ Hurdle was largely left unaffected as the French raider, Gold Tweet, won fairly easily, and doesn’t hold an entry in the Thursday feature. Teahupoo remains the 9/4 favourite after his romp in the Galmoy at Gowran Park last Thursday.

Paisley Park could only manage third in his bid for an historic fourth Cleeve Hurdle and was pushed out to 11/1 from 7/1 for a second Stayers’ title.

The days opener, the Triumph Hurdle Trial, saw Comfort Zone shorten up after getting the better of Scriptwriter up the hill to supplement his Finale win at Chepstow. He is a solid proposition for the juvenile championship and looks sure to run his race, but he did meet his only defeat at the hands of the current market leader for the first race on the Friday.

Joseph O’Brien’s juvenile was clipped into 10/1 from 12/1 and Scriptwriter 12s from 14s, with the victory also franking Lossiemouth’s form who hardened into Evens favourite.

Stage Star carried twelve stone to an easy victory in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase. An entry here had me thinking Paul Nicholls had given up hope of graded novice success, but it proved to be the exact opposite as he couldn’t have won any easier, being on the front end throughout.

Stage Star may be a light for the British in an Irish dominated Turner’s Novice Chase over the same track and trip having been cut to 12/1 (from 33/1) while he was trimmed to 16/1 for the three-mile Broadway Novices’ Chase 24 hours earlier. Depending on how the handicapper reacts, he would also have the option of tackling the Plate for which he was inserted at 8/1.

The Cross Country Chase went to Back On The Lash for the second successive year. Yet again he was carrying a light weight in the handicap whereas he has struggled when asked to race off level weights. He is a 16/1 (from 33s) shot for glory over the twists and turns in six weeks’ time. Delta Work lost little in defeat and comes out as the best horse at the weights just over four lengths back in third. He will be a tough nut to crack once again with the race conditions of the Festival contest suiting this former high class performer and is a solid 5/4 favourite.

The final trial of the day was the Classic Novices Hurdle, a trial for the Ballymore, the opening race on the Wednesday.

Rock My Way had served notice of his ability when second on rules debut at the track on New Years’ Day and fulfilled that promise to see off the favourite Pembroke. He was halved in price to 25/1 for the Ballymore in a month and a half's time.


There was some great racing on Town Moor too on Saturday.

In the Lightning Novices Chase, Tommy’s Oscar dented Boothill’s Arkle hopes with a smooth success. Tommy’s Oscar isn’t entered at Cheltenham and a trip to Aintree for the Maghull Novices’ Chase and maybe even Punchestown maybe on his radar.

We learned that Epatante is alive and well when showing her class edge in the Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle without coming off the bridle. She remains at 9/2 for the Mares’ Hurdle and 20/1 (NRNB) for a second Champion Hurdle success.

The River Don is always a test of a young novice hurdler over the three miles and acts as a trial for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Maximillian was this year’s game winner for Donald McCain and Brian Hughes. He was cut to  20/1 from 50/1 while Paul Nicholls’ Stay Away Fay, who lost very little in defeat on just third lifetime run, remained unchanged at 25/1.

Betfred's Cheltenham Festival markets*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change | Odds Courtesy Of Betfred

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