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 looks at two longshot picks who won last weekend.
And don't forget to scan his Gold Cup pick as well as a monster Lucky 15 with an eye-watering return.
So without further ado…
ONE of the great advantages jumps racing has over the Flat is the chance to see great horses coming back year after year.
You have the odd exception on the level like Stradivarius but National Hunt fans get to really follow a runner through a career that can last seven or eight years.
We had a prime example at the weekend as the evergreen SCEAU ROYAL won the Wincanton Elite Hurdle for the third time.
He’ll be ten when Cheltenham rolls around but trainer Alan King is adamant this dual-purpose performer is better than ever.
He has tasted plenty of success at Prestbury Park but not at the Festival where his fifth to PUT THE KETTLE ON in last year’s Champion Chase was his best performance.
He was beaten less than four lengths there and came off worst in a barging match three out when nearly knocked over. He was hampered again before coming up the hill nicely.
Assuming King and owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede go down the same route, the 50-1 on offer each-way in next year’s Champion Chase may be worth a little each-way nibble.
There were a couple of nice performances by Stayers’ Hurdle hopefuls over the weekend as DARASSO and BREWIN'UPASTORM were put into the market.
No lesser lights than Apples Jade and Solerina have won the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan that Darasso took on Sunday.
It helped that leader FLOORING PORTER hit the deck two out when still going well but Joseph O’Brien’s runner was far from beaten at that stage and saw off SIRE DU BERLAIS fair and square in the end.
He’d have to progress again to have a say in the Stayers’ but could come back quickly for the Morgiana at Punchestown this weekend where he can run well.
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Offers of 40-1 for Cheltenham look about right.
Brewin’upastorm was an impressive winner at Aintree as he gave weight to 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar and the useful If The Cap Fits before beating them by nine lengths.
He travelled really strongly with the 2m4f looking ideal. He’s 25s for the Stayers’ but trainer Olly Murphy says he doesn’t stay three miles.
Keep an eye out for him on his travels as he’s high class over this distance.
With all the expansion of the Festival, it’s a shame that there isn’t a top hurdles contest over this in-between trip.
Maybe we do need a fifth day after all!
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