SUN Racing top tipster Steve Mullen – Templegate to you and me – returns with his horses to follow in the countdown to Cheltenham Festival.
It may still be five months away but already the ante post markets are being shook up as the top talent returns to the track.
Here, our man takes a close look at the form from the Cheltenham November Meeting.
THE biggest Cheltenham pointer of the week came at the home of the Festival on Sunday.
Nube Negra threw down the gauntlet to defending Champion Chaser Put The Kettle On with a blistering performance to land the four-runner Shloer Chase.
Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old had to settle for second best at the Festival but he turned the tables in great style, jumping well and tanking along for a six-length success.
Put The Kettle On trailed in more than ten lengths away in third as she tasted defeat at Cheltenham for the first time.
Nube Negra was slashed from 20-1 to as short as 7s for the Champion Chase on the back of this and his liking for Cheltenham is a major plus.
I wouldn’t get too carried away though given that Shiskin and Energumene will be standing in his way, while Chacun Pour Soi hasn’t gone away either.
Nube Negra needs to take another step forward from this excellent performance and we know Dan Skelton will have had him as fit as possible for this comeback.
He is a real contender but let’s see what the others come up with.
As for Put The Kettle On, I wouldn’t write her off just yet.
The ground was on the lively side for her and the small field didn’t really suit her grinding style.
She wasn’t impressive in winning the Shloer last season when she took a long time to hit top gear and relished the testing conditions.
It doesn’t take a genius to think she may be suited by a longer distance now just to take her away from the real speedsters.
She was put into the Ryanair Chase betting at 20s but the Festival Mares’ Chase over 2m4f may be a more suitable target.
The 14-1 on offer for that looks more than fair as the trip should be ideal and the opposition isn’t quite so hot.
Henry De Bromhead also has Gin On Lime who looks an ideal type for that Grade 2 contest so Rachael Blackmore may have a tricky call to make in March.
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