Defi bids to Triumph again

A preview of the pick of the rest of the action from the second day of The International meeting at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Defi Du Seuil bids for the juvenile hurdle

Defi Du Seuil bids to enhance his Festival claims when going for a hat-trick of victories over the smaller obstacles in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The French import is second-favourite at around 14/1 for the Triumph itself in March on the back of wins at this course and at Ffos Las.

His trainer Philip Hobbs has nothing to compare Defi Du Seuil with at home, but reports the three-year-old to be giving him the right signs.

"He won very well at Cheltenham last time. You could argue that it wasn't a fantastic race, but Alan King's horse that fell (Dino Velvet) has won at Sandown since," said the Minehead handler.

"He has been in very good form since. We hope he has a good chance again on Saturday.

"He is the only juvenile I've got, so he is the best and the worst one. At this stage he looks very good, but it (the Festival) is a long way off yet.

"I'm sure there are lots of good three-year-olds that haven't run over hurdles yet."

King has an interesting contender this time in Coeur De Lion, who was a maiden on the Flat but made a winning debut over jumps at Wetherby last month.

"He was progressive on the Flat, although he didn't win," said the Barbury Castle trainer.

"He made his hurdling debut at Wetherby and I thought he was going to be second most of the race, but he got up close home to beat one of Charlie Longsdon's (Forth Bridge).

"He is a grand horse, whether he is up to that level I don't know but we will give it a go and see where we are with him.

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"Cheltenham should suit and he wouldn't mind if they did get a bit of rain, as he does handle give in the ground."

Domperignon Du Lys is prominent in the ante-post market for the Triumph at a general 20-1 after his debut success at Newcastle.

His trainer Nicky Henderson was so impressed with his latest piece of schooling this week that he felt he just had to turn him out again.

"It's only a fortnight ago since Newcastle, but he was very good up there. He is a baby, but he has done everything right," said the Seven Barrows handler.

"He had a school on Thursday morning and he was so good that I think we have to run."

Dan Skelton has been overwhelmed by the improvement shown by No Hassle Hoff, who hacked up at Hereford after falling at the last with the race at his mercy at Fontwell before that.

The four-year-old now steps up in class in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.

"I'm really happy with him. He's taken us a bit by surprise on the whole. He was second in a point-to-point but day-by-day he has been getting better at home," said Skelton.

"He hosed up at Hereford in a race that fell apart. What that means I don't know and we will find out on Saturday. I really don't quite know where we are with him, but it wouldn't surprise if he was able."

Trainer Neil Mulholland is hoping Impulsive Star can show the benefit of his Ffos Las success and put in a good performance as he carries the colours of Cheltenham racecourse chairman Robert Waley-Cohen.

"We were very happy with him at Ffos Las. Obviously it's a big step up, but we feel he's improved since he ran and hopefully he can run well for connections, who are well connected at Cheltenham," said Mulholland.

The Wiltshire handler reports Baltimore Rock to be ready to return to the fray in the Raymond Mould Handicap Chase after being absent since being well-beaten by Douvan in the Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown in late April.

"He's in good form. Noel (Fehily) schooled him on Friday morning and we're happy with how he is for his first run of the season," said Mulholland.

Irish trainer Eddie Harty is hoping Dalmatia can reproduce the form she showed when winning at Punchestown three weeks ago when she bids to follow-up in the OLBG Mares Handicap Hurdle.

The five-year-old stuck on gamely to score by half a length when making all the running that day.

"Dalmatia is in good form. It is a nice race and worth a few quid, so we feel it is worth coming over for," said the Curragh handler, who bagged a Grade One at Fairyhouse last weekend with Coney Island.

"She is a few pounds higher in England and will be stepping up in distance, but if she can reproduce her Punchestown performance, she should be in the mix.

"She wore a tongue strap at Punchestown, but I don't think that made too much difference. She can be quite keen in her races and it is important to get her to settle."

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