Festival contenders impress at Cheltenham


Alan King, Martin Pipe and Nigel Twiston-Davies shared the training honours on the New Year's Day card at Cheltenham by notching doubles.

Two of those winners emerged as clear favourites for races at the Festival in March.

The King-trained Trouble At Bay is 10-1 market leader for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with William Hill and Victor Chandler following his three-quarters of a length triumph over French raider Meryl in the Steel Plate Trial Juvenile Novices' Hurdle.

Robert Thornton's mount was unsuited by the very steady pace but responded when asked to quicken things up at the bottom of the hill and was always going to hold his pursuers on the run-in.

King, whose stable is taking all before it at present, has a potential Grand National horse in Bear On Board, whose jumping was flawless as he galloped to a two-length success over Fasgo in the Miles Gosling Handicap Chase.

The highlight of Pipe's day came when Therealbandit powered to a 20-lengths success over French challenger Massac in the Ian Williams' Owners Novices' Chase.

The winner is as short as 3-1 with Coral for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Festival, but in post-race analysis from the trainer there was a suggestion that the seven-year-old could be considered for the Tote Gold Cup, for which Victor Chandler introduced him at 16-1.

Waterlaw made every yard under Jamie Moore to launch the Pipe brace in the Cheltenham & Three Counties Race Club Handicap Chase.

There was a minor shake-up in the betting for the Victor Chandler Handicap Chase following Redemption's length-and-a-quarter defeat of Monkerhostin in the George Stevens Handicap Hurdle.

The sponsors cut the nine-year-old four points into 12-1 for the race at Ascot on January 10 and his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is bullish about a big run.

A change of trip did the trick for Whereareyounow, who comfortably completed the Twiston-Davies/Carl Llewellyn brace when beating Spring Grove by seven lengths in the Unicoin Homes Handicap Chase.

Although the 11-2 winner will be entered for the Martell Cognac Grand National, he will only run at Aintree if something goes wrong with Bindaree, who is in the same ownership.

History repeated itself in the EBF `Junior' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race when Secret Ploy, trained by Hugh Morrison, confirmed his Newbury superiority over Baby Run, thus foiling a treble for the Twiston-Davies stable.

Cashmans make the winner a 20-1 shot for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.