Impressive Defi Du Seuil vies for festival favouritism
Although he was landing cramped odds of 4-6, so taking was Defi Du Seuil in landing the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham on Saturday that he moved up to challenge Landofhopeandglory at the very top of the betting for the real thing in March.
Paddy Power and Betfair were most impressed by Defi Du Seuil, both making him their 6-1 joint-favourite with Landofhopeandglory, another JP McManus hopeful in the care of Joseph O'Brien.
The race was the sort of muddling affair that so many similar races descend into, with only Candy Burg's pulling himself to the front lifting the tempo to any serious degree.
All five were still in contention approaching two out, but a mistake by Domperignon Du Lys ended his challenge and by the last it was clear that the winner and Coeur De Lion had it between themselves.
The runner-up pulled nine lengths away from the third, impressive in itself, but Barry Geraghty on Defi Du Seuil obviously had him covered and just rode out his mount after a check under his other arm.
"What impressed Barry most was how he met the last, 'on springs' was the term he used," said winning trainer Philip Hobbs.
He added: "We're thinking about the Triumph and working backwards. He wouldn't need any more races before the festival but he's tough and would take it."
Owner holds the best hand
Defi De Seuil is one of several JP McManus-owned contenders for the Triumph, but Hobbs said: "We usually get to run the [McManus] horses where we think they have the best chance and JP loves a winner at the festival, so I don't think he'll have a problem running a few against each other."
Boylesports and Ladbrokes both kept Defi Du Seuil at double-figure odds, but only just at 10-1. Coeur De Lion is available at twice those odds, though on Saturday's evidence it would be difficult to imagine circumstances in which he would reverse the result.
Defi Du Seuil might get another opportunity to strut his stuff sooner than we may have hoped. "The Finale is only a fortnight away but I wouldn't rule it out," said Hobbs. "He wouldn't mind soft ground at Chepstow, either."