March 15 – Cheltenham – Constitution Hill – 83

Built up as one of the races of the entire Festival, it turned into a bit of a procession for a horse who had all the hallmarks of a potential champion going into the contest. Looking at the pace map beforehand, there always looked like there could be a strong gallop, but no one could have foreseen how the race would transpire and it was clear from a long way out that everything set up for Nicky Henderson’s gelding to produce a huge figure. Once his main market rivals shot their bolts, the stage was left for him to stroll up the hill in splendid isolation and even though he was by no means fully extended, he still ended up winning by miles. Running every part of the race quicker than Honeysuckle (could only manage a 71), it will be interesting to see how the pair match up should their paths meet in future, but on this evidence, the son of Blue Bresil has nothing to fear as he looks every inch Champion Hurdle material.

March 16 – Cheltenham – Energemene – 81

A race that rather fell apart by halfway with Shishkin pulling up and Chacun Pour Soi departing the scene at the final ditch, but that should not detract from the fact Willie Mullins’ gelding was by some way the dominant force. Always travelling well in the hands of Paul Townend, the eight-year-old seemed to really appreciate the change in tactics and if ridden in a similar vein in future, he is likely to be very difficult to beat in this division, even accounting for his old rival Shishkin bouncing back on better ground.

March 16 – Cheltenham – L’Homme Presse – 76

A race affected by the late withdrawal of Bravemansgame, but that should not detract from the performance of the winner, who may have won even if Paul Nicholls’ gelding had run. Once again putting in his signature round of solid jumping, Venetia Williams’ gelding had matters in hand a long way from home and the way he stayed on up the hill over a trip he was attempting for the first time, strongly suggests he will be a major force in all the big three events next season.

March 17 – Cheltenham – Allaho – 81

A race that looked at his mercy beforehand, Willie Mullins’ gelding never gave his supporters a moments worry and his performance both visually and on the clock matched his success in the same contest last year. A relentless galloper at the trip, the son of No Risk At All has the uncanny knack of burning his rivals off without seemingly too much effort and that smart distribution of energy is what sets him apart. Likely to stay in his lane with a view to going for the hat trick in this race next season, even odds of 5-2 look fairly generous given his stature among his peers.

March 18 – Cheltenham – A Plus Tard – 81

Probably one of the most reliable horses in training we have in recent times in terms of always posting a smart number, Henry De Bromhead’s gelding was once again close to his best in gaining revenge over his old rival Minella Indo. Clearly learning from his agonising defeat in the Savilles Chase at Leopardstown back in December, the decision by Rachel Blackmore to hold on to her mount for a little longer this time paid dividends and the way he sprinted up the hill to the line was quite some effort given the pace they had gone from the start. A horse clearly at the peak of his powers, the acid test is now can he go and do what has eluded many in the past and win the blue riband the following season.

March 18 – Cheltenham – State Man – 77

One of the big talking horses of the Festival, connections eventually settled for running him in this competitive arena and as it turned out, their decision proved to be spot on. Given a patient ride by Paul Townend, the Irish champion jockey produced his mount with a well-timed challenge going well on the long run to the last and then once he flicked the switch after the last, the son of Doctor Dino bounded up the hill for a comfortable success. Clocking a very smart time figure, it would come as no surprise to see him wave goodbye to handicaps and dip his toe into Graded company sooner rather than later.