'Appreciate the Champion Bumper form' - four key talking points from the weekend
Bristol De Mai dominated the weekend headlines after his third Betfair Chase win, but who else caught the eye in Britain and Ireland?
Step up in trip may suit Appreciate It
It would be unwise to get overexcited about a winner of a maiden hurdle at odds of 1-12, even if it was against 13 rivals. But the style in which Appreciate It jumped on his hurdling debut at Cork marked him out as something possibly quite special, with rider Paul Townend describing the display as "electric".
Trained by Willie Mullins, Appreciate It is available at 16-1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, but may be more suited by the test of the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle over further, for which he is contesting favouritism with Ferny Hollow at a top-priced 12-1.
The victory underlined the particular strength of March's Champion Bumper, a race in which Appreciate It finished second behind stablemate Ferny Hollow.
The first six home have won nine races from 13 between them, with three of those victories by sixth-placed Ocean Wind, who took the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket in September. The eighth, tenth, 13th, 14th, 16th, 18th and 22nd home at Cheltenham have all won since too.
Is Main Fact the new Hunt Ball?
One of the most memorable narratives of the 2011-12 season was the rise to prominence of Hunt Ball, who went from winning a novice handicap at Folkestone off a mark of 69 to Cheltenham Festival glory.
Whether Main Fact ends up following the same sort of path remains to be seen, but he has already managed to get his head in front an astonishing nine times in a row.
This year Main Fact has been expertly placed over hurdles, and on the Flat, by David Pipe. Saturday's victory in the Grade 3 Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle represented another career-best and it still does not look as if the handicapper has his measure off a mark of 147.
Sterner tests await, and he would need to prove as effective on spring ground, but it will be fascinating to see where Main Fact ends up.
Andrews excellence may not always come off
Social media unsurprisingly went into overdrive when Bridget Andrews displayed a glacial temperament to get Robin Gold in front at Ascot, and if you haven't watched it, then avail yourself of the replay.
The obvious comparison drawn was Andrews channelling her inner Jamie Spencer, but there was more than a hint of Davy Russell or Barry Geraghty in her ice-cool ride.
Robin Gold looks like a mare with more to offer, especially if able to stay on the bridle for as long as possible. But those praising Andrews now must exercise forgiveness if such daring tactics do not always come off.
Small fields can provide big interest
A select handful of runners for the Betfair Chase is normal, and it was a similar story at Ascot with the track's pair of Grade 2s attracting seven runners in total. At Naas, 11 runners contested the two Grade 2s on the card.
However, any fears this could lead to uncompetitive action, from an entertainment and punting perspective, were not realised.
Bristol De Mai's third win in the Betfair Chase was founded on his trademark toughness, but anyone who fancied the nine-year-old to come out on top again would have been rewarded with an SP of 9-4.
At Ascot, Imperial Aura was an impressive winner, but there was still some meat on the bone for favourite backers at 13-8, while those who backed outsider of three Song For Someone in the Coral Hurdle enjoyed an 11-4 payday.
Favourite Cash Back fell at the first in the Poplar Square Chase while 11-10 chance Gars En Noir managed only third in the Fishery Lane Hurdle.
Small fields with long odds-on shots are usually unwelcome, especially now with competitive fare needed to help stimulate the levy in a pandemic-affected year, so it was heartening to see Saturday's big-race results for a variety of reasons.
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