Five things we learned from the weekend
Jezki (near side): it would be dangerous to write him off for the Champion while Faugheen and Annie Power have still to make an appearance
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos) Five things we learned from the weekend By Jon Lees 6:25PM 22 JAN 2017
WE LOOK back on the lessons learned and potential implications from Saturday and Sunday's big races.
1 Jezki could still be Champion
Having won the Champion Hurdle back in 2014 it is tempting to regard Jezki as an ageing horse who is past his best. Particularly as connections have seemed inclined to tilt him towards the Stayers' Hurdle rather than the Champion.
In fact Jezki is nine, the same age as Faugheen and Annie Power, and any doubts he has lost his edge over 2m were dismissed as he took full advantage of a 6lb pull over his rival to win in comfortable fashion at Navan on Saturday.
Jezki had not run since winning the Grade 1 3m hurdle, in which he defeated no less than Hurricane Fly, at Punchestown in April 2015 but made light of his 632-day absence to win under Barry Geraghty, who is unbeaten in six rides on the horse.
His next outing is also likely to be over 2m and while he remains much shorter in the betting for the Stayers, it would be dangerous to write him off for the Champion while Faugheen and Annie Power have still to make an appearance this season.
2 Bristol De Mai is Gold candidate
So accustomed have we become to examples of Tizzard wizardry over the winter that there was huge anticipation he would cast his spell again with French recruit Alary.
As a result perhaps too much was expected under top weight of 11st 12lb in a fiercely competitive handicap as Alary began to struggle to go the pace down the back at Haydock and eventually had to be pulled up before turning for home. He won't be written off after one start but a Gold Cup challenge this year looks ambitious.
Bristol De Mai (grey): jumped superbly to rout the field and eased across the line to score by 22 lengths
PICTURE: john Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Not so for Bristol De Mai who jumped superbly to rout the field and eased across the line to score by 22 lengths.
Having barely figured in mentions for the Gold Cup before Saturday he surely should be now with a fierce hike in rating likely to rule him out of handicaps for the time being.
3 The New One does things in threes
You cannot fault his consistency as The New One claimed Haydock's Champion Hurdle Trial for the third year running and in much the same fashion as before, battling it out over a supposedly much inferior rival to gain a narrow victory.
In December he won the International Hurdle at Cheltenham for a third time, a feat only Relkeel and Birds Nest had completed before.
He has also run three times in the Champion Hurdle and been beaten three times, coming nearest three years ago when an unlucky third behind Jezki. So given that record, and a defeat to Yanworth at Christmas, isn't it time to try something else.
Sam Twiston-Davies would love a crack at Stayers' Hurdle. Why not take his advice, Nigel?
4 Better to come from Yorkhill
It has been a quiet month for the Willie Mullins stable. Yorkhill was only a seventh winner in January when the strike-rate has barely made it into double figures.
One senses Ireland's champion jumps trainer, who sent out 22 winners during Christmas week, is gradually regathering his team for another huge assault on the Cheltenham Festival.
Yorkhill: last year's Neptune winner jumped to his left
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Therefore it would be mistaken to dismiss the performance of Yorkhill for not winning the Grade 3 novices chase at Leopardstown as easily as his 1-5 odds suggested.
Last year's Neptune winner jumped to his left but was never in danger as he ridden out to the line to hold the 25-1 chance Jett. It was only his second chase and there is surely better to come.
5 Kennedy is box office
With 52 Cheltenham Festival victories Ruby Walsh has earned his pedigree as the sport's ultimate big-race jump jockey in both Britain and Ireland but during an eventful week the teenage Jack Kennedy has delivered numerous examples of a talent on the rise.
On Thursday another Kennedy film became a box office hit when footage of the jockey's miraculous acrobatic recovery on Bilko at Thurles went viral.
Earlier in the day he had manoeuvred The Storyteller to take Walsh inside on the turn for home and manufacture victory over hot favourite Battleford and on Sunday he steered A Toi Phil to a last gasp triumph in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase.
Kennedy has not ridden a winner in Britain yet from 15 rides and has only had five rides at Cheltenham but it can only be a matter of time.
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