Cheltenham Festival & Grand National Eye-Catchers: Eldorado Allen for Grand Annual?

Eldorado Allen was no match for Shishkin, but could be primed for a tilt at the Grand Annual.
Eldorado Allen was no match for Shishkin, but could be primed for a tilt at the Grand Annual.

Steve Chambers looks back at the weekend action and picks out three horses that could feature prominently at the Cheltenham Festival or Grand National...

We may have missed out on a sparkling Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham as the wet weather forced officials to abandon that card, but there were still some top notch horses strutting their stuff at the weekend in the UK & Ireland with Doncaster and Naas producing some smart performances by horses that could be a major players at the Cheltenham Festival next month. Meanwhile, could we have seen a potential Grand National contender in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster?

Eldorado Allen - Colin Tizzard (Grand Annual Chase)

All eyes were on Shishkin for Doncaster's Grade 2 Lightning Novices' Chase on Saturday afternoon, and last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner made no mistake when sent off at prohibitive odds to cement his place at the top of the Arkle Challenge Trophy betting with a facile victory on Town Moor. The unbeaten chaser is now as short as 8/13 to win the Grade 1 novice chase on March 16, and it's hard to see the Nicky Henderson-trained superstar being beaten in that two-mile event.

However, while many were lauding the Seven Barrows' inmate's faultless display, in behind the Colin Tizzard-trained Eldorado Allen was putting up a fine effort against the classier Shishkin, and he could well be destined for a proper crack at the Grand Annual Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next month. Entered for both the Arkle (50/1) and Marsh Novices' Chase (33/1) at the festival, the seven-year-old is unlikely to take his chance in either of those Graded contests, as he shall prove no match for Shishkin in the Arkle, while the unbeaten Envoi Allen looks the dominant figure in the Marsh, so the handicap route is the way forward for the Tizzard charge.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

Well beaten in the County Hurdle last season, Eldorado Allen has shaped with significant promise over fences and having won on his chasing debut at Newton Abbot he then went on to win a Grade 2 event at Cheltenham in November, where he beat Quel Destin by an emphatic 19 lengths. Well beaten in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown next time out and brushed aside on Saturday by Shishkin, Eldorado Allen, who is rated in the 140s, looks to be beyond achieving the plaudits at the highest level, so he could be seen to better effect in the Grand Annual.

With the top weight in last year's event running off 155, Eldorado Allen will be towards the top of the handicap, but having shown his class when winning at Cheltenham earlier in the season and having given Shishkin some sort of race for the first three quarters of Saturday's contest, then the 25/1 about him in the Grand Annual betting looks a little too big, so has to be respected, should Tizzard opt to send him to the devilishly difficult handicap.

Pencilfulloflead - Gordon Elliott (National Hunt Chase)

Gordon Elliott holds an astonishingly strong hand in the National Hunt Chase with Galvin spearheading the Cullentra House team, but another notable contender from the Elliott yard could be Pencilfullofload, who finished third in a Grade 3 novice chase at Naas on Sunday. A winner of the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown earlier in the season, Pencilfulloflead was edged out by Colreevy in the Grade 1 Faugheen Novice Chase on Boxing Day over an inadequate trip before suffering his second defeat on the spin at the weekend.

Beaten by Eklat De Rire and Escaria Ten on Sunday, Pencilfulloflead was giving significant weight to those two rivals, so to finish just over six lengths behind that pair was no mean feat, and his Cheltenham hopes are certainly not dead in the water. A few sticky jumps caused him to lose a bit of momentum during the race, so while he is entered for the Festival Novices' Chase - a race he is 25/1 for - he could well just struggle in that race, as his jumping frailties could hinder his chances.

So, with that in mind, the longer trip of the National Hunt Chase could well make more appeal, and at 20/1 for that marathon event he is worth taking a second look at. Things are run at a much slower pace in that contest, so his jumping can afford to be a little bit slower, and with stamina appearing to be his forte then his class could come to the fore in the closing stages. Stablemate Galvin will rightly be the primary shot fired by the Elliott gun, but in Pencilfulloflead he has a notable second string, who could well make significant waves if sent down this route rather than the three-mile test on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

Aye Right - Harriet Graham (Grand National or Scottish Grand National)

Harriet Graham's Aye Right put up another fabulous performance in a competitive handicap chase, as the eight-year-old finished a gallant second to Takingrisks in Saturday's Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster. Having already finished second in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury earlier in the season, Aye Right is a really progressive staying star over the larger obstacles, and he could turn into a notable National horse this year.

Currently a 33/1 chance for the Grand National, Aye Right looks tailor-made for a tilt at the Aintree showpiece, but Graham has pencilled a potential assignment at the Scottish Grand National later in April, so it could be Ayr that plays host to the exciting performer. Installed as the 10/1 favourite with one firm for the Scottish National, Aye Right will be given a notable hike up the handicap following Saturday's fine run, but having shown to be in the form of his life then he has to be a major contender at a meeting he has won before at. 

While the glitz and glamour of a Grand National on Merseyside will surely be tempting for connections, the Scottish equivalent could suit him even better, but one thing is for sure, whichever of those long distance events he lines up in he will be a major challenger.

Cheltenham Festival Races
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