May 21, 2024

It seems like the National Hunt season is in full swing, showcasing top-tier events at Cheltenham over the weekend and welcoming high-caliber novices back in Ireland.

At Cheltenham on Saturday, Harry Cobden stole the spotlight. He steered Burdett Road to victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle trial with a commanding late surge and then demonstrated finesse from the front on Stage Star in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. The added excitement of some last-fence drama highlighted Cobden’s strength, balance, and unwavering determination in maintaining the partnership.

In Ireland, the focus was on the debutant chaser Facile Vega, who secured a comfortable win at Navan. Opinions varied post-race, but personally, I was impressed. Facile Vega showcased nimble footwork and precise speed, particularly navigating the fourth fence from home and accelerating in the dash up the home straight. His flawless debut suggests he will have two more starts ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, likely at Leopardstown at Christmas and the Dublin Racing Festival. This added experience positions him favorably against his probable rival, Marine Nationale, who Barry Connell aims to shield from challenging ground conditions, providing a substantial advantage come March.

Sunday at Cheltenham favored Nicky Henderson, with Jonbon, ridden by Nico de Boinville in place of the injured Aidan Coleman, displaying the traits of a top-notch two-miler. The duo claimed victory in the Shloer Chase, and Jonbon’s performance suggests potential aspirations for Betway Champion Chase glory. De Boinville and Henderson combined forces again to secure the Unibet Greatwood Hurdle, where De Boinville’s composed riding and strategic route led to a comfortable victory over Lookaway after the last hurdle.

Looking ahead to Monday’s action, I’ve identified three selections. Best of luck to all!

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