Five things we learned: Emitom a lively player in the Stayers'

Emitom bounded to victory in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock Park at the weekend.
Emitom bounded to victory in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock Park at the weekend.

A weekend dominated by the wind and rain in the UK & Ireland, there were a host of talking points to emerge and Steve Chambers picks out five things we learned from action-packed few days of National Hunt action...

Emitom a lively rival to Paisley Park in Stayers' Hurdle

Having finished last of six at Cheltenham on New Year's Day in the Relkeel Hurdle, the jury was most certainly out with the Warren Greatrex-trained Emitom, who was touted as a potential lively contender for the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival at the beginning of the season. However, the six-year-old, who ended last season with a fine second in the Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree's Grand National, launched back into the Stayers reckoning with a facile win in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock Park on Saturday.

Backed into favouritism, Emitom's market rival The Worlds End was beaten a long way out, but even if he had performed he wouldn't have been any match for Greatrex's raider who outclassed his opponents in the Grade 2 contest and went on to win by eight lengths.

Slashed from 20/1 to 12/1 for the Stayers' Hurdle in the aftermath of his success, Emitom was all-but given the green light by Greatrex for a pop at the Stayers' Hurdle on March 12, but he will have the small matter of trying to down reigning champion and hot favourite Paisley Park in the Grade 1 Championship race. Having won the staying hurdle race with Cole Harden a few years ago, Greatrex knows what it takes to land the prize, but while Paisley Park is entitled to be a warm order, he now has a major challenger in the shape of Emitom, who is still open to significant improvement before he heads to Prestbury Park in just over three weeks.

Tiger takes first step to Grand National hat-trick

Gordon Elliott was rightly pleased with Tiger Roll's comeback run in the Boyne Hurdle, but he certainly still has to show more at next month's Cheltenham Festival if he is to have a chance of landing an historic Grand National hat-trick at Aintree on April 4.

Travelling smoothly through the first three-quarters of the race, it had appeared that the Gigginstown House Stud-owned raider could be in line to retain his Navan crown, but his lack of race fitness showed in the closing stages as he drifted back into fifth spot come the finish.

Having failed to qualify for the Grand National yet and needing to run in a chase race in the coming weeks, which will be in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham - a race he has won the last two years - it's astonishing to see that Tiger Roll is as short as 4/1 to land the Grand National three-timer.

Yes, Sunday's outing showed that he is now injury-free, but now significantly up in the ratings for the Grand National and having to carry top weight in the Merseyside marathon Tiger Roll still has a whole host of questions to answer before he lines up in the National looking to emulate Red Rum, so hold your bets on him creating history!

O'Neill delivers on the big stage once again

Richard Johnson's injury has come at the wrong time in his quest to retain the National Hunt champion jockey crown, but the absence of the legendary rider has left the door open for Jonjo O'Neill Jr, who has quickly shown that he is destined for the very top.

Having piloted Native River to victory in the Denman Chase last weekend for Colin Tizzard, the duo teamed up again on Saturday for Graded success as Copperhead impressively won the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot and that win propelled his name into the RSA Chase picture.

22-year-old O'Neill Jr has blossomed under the pressure of big-race rides the last two weekends and having already bagged a winner at the Cheltenham Festival (rode Early Doors to Martin Pipe glory in 2019) O'Neill Jr is fast becoming one of the premier young talents in the weighing room.

While the likes of Harry Cobden, Sean Bowen and James Bowen have flown the flag for the young brigade in recent times, O'Neill Jr can be another emerging talent that is destined to reach the top, and while he has a long way to go to emulate his multiple Cheltenham Festival-winning father Jonjo Sr, who rode the mighty Dawn Run to Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle glory, O'Neill Jr is heading down the right path to fly into the higher echelons of the National Hunt jockey's division.

Can Ramses land the Albert Bartlett/Grand National double?

David Pipe's Ramses De Teillee continued his astonishing season on Saturday as he claimed more Graded success over hurdles at Haydock Park, where he won the Prestige Novices' Hurdle by four lengths.

Known as a decent staying handicap chaser in recent times, the Pond House inmate has been a revelation over timber this campaign winning at Cheltenham, Doncaster and now Haydock over the smaller obstacles. A dour stayer, he is now as short as 9/1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle next month, but there is some 16s available with some firms.

Pulled up in last year's Grand National, the eight-year-old is around a 33/1 poke for the Aintree spectacular this year, so a path of an Albert Bartlett followed by a Grand National is far from usual, but in red-hot form, he's entitled to take his place in both.

However, having failed to land a blow in last year's Grand National then it's hard to see him figure in the 2020 renewal on April 4, but in the Albert Bartlett he must stand a huge chance in what is a wide open race and with stamina assured then he's sure to be doing his best work at the finish.

Sir Psycho - Boodles or Triumph?

Une Artiste was the last horse to win the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle before going on to claim victory in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham in 2012. Now, eight years on there could be another horse looking to attempt to land the coveted double and that is the Paul Nicholls-trained Sir Psycho, who was hugely impressive at Haydock Park last weekend.

A runaway eight-and-a-half length victory at the weekend saw Sir Psycho cut in the betting for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and his price now ranges from 8/1 to 20/1 for the race. But, the manner in which he strode clear under Bryony Frost and his slickness over his hurdles will now hand his trainer Paul Nicholls the dilemma of whether to avoid the handicap route and line up in the Triumph Hurdle on the final day of Cheltenham.

Soft ground appears to bring out the best in the Ditcheat inmate, so if the heavens were to open in the lead-up to the festival then he's more likely to run against the likes of Goshen and Allmankind in the Triumph, but while he impressed at the weekend he still needs more improvement to challenge for Grade 1 glory in the four-year-old division, and if the going is on the quicker side then the Boodles should be the target and the 20/1 about a Triumph success is worth avoiding.

Cheltenham Festival Tips
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