Run For Free, the Welsh National winner, set out to burn off a quality field just as he had done at Chepstow, but while Tipping Tim and the declining Twin Oaks were going backwards two out, Jodami and Mark Dwyer were lying up with minimal effort. Dwyer was dripping confidence as he joined issue at the last, and while Run For Free did himself few favours by skewing left on the run-in, Jodami needed little encouragement to quicken and win by two lengths.
Jodami's trainer, Peter Beaumont, is not a man to use two syllables when one will do. But there was scant need for expansion in any case, beyond the information that he plans to put the Festival edge on his gelding in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown next month.
From behind a thick layer of mud, Dwyer was much more forthcoming. 'I was very impressed with him, and I was always going to catch the leader, no problem,' he said. 'Jodami is progressing all the time. When he gets to the front, he tends to look about a bit, but I wouldn't swap him for anything in the Gold Cup.'
The bookmakers adjusted their lists accordingly, with Ladbrokes now showing 5-1 (from 8-1) and Coral top-priced at 7-1. The Fellow heads things up at around 5-2, and after adding in Run For Free (7-1) and his stable mate, Rushing Wild (5-1), they go 16-1 bar. Since outsiders have won the last three runnings, it would be unwise to assume that Jodami has just three rivals to worry about. Yet while formbook bores will point out that he was getting 8lb from Run For Free yesterday, he would surely have won at levels. As a Cheltenham trial, it was flawless.
The same could not be said of the Champion Hurdle Trial. Jinxy Jack, the winner, is not even a certain runner at the Festival. The ante-post market trembled rather than shook after Gordon Richards's gelding had nosed past Coulton on the run-in, and it was the runner-up who exercised the bookies, Ladbrokes snipping his Festival odds to 14-1 from 16-1.
Two hurdles from home, it looked as if they might need to reach for the pinking shears. After surviving some scratchy jumps early on, Coulton moved up to Jinxy Jack's shoulders on the bit, but when asked for an effort he found only enough for a half-length lead. Jinxy Jack, showing the sort of resolution which many once doubted he possessed, cut him down again in the last 100 yards.
This was only Coulton's second run of the season, after a novice campaign which promised plenty, but after defeat by a horse who may not even line up at the Festival, he can hardly be seen as a credible Champion Hurdle contender.
Peter Scudamore added two more wins in his pursuit of Richard Dunwoody in the race for the jockeys' title. He showed a champion's poise when managing to keep connected to Capability Brown in the Novice Chase, while Pragada gave him an easier time in the Long Distance Hurdle.
Scudamore's only reverse was that he did not make it to Kempton in time to partner Grand Hawk, winner of the last. The Sunbury track's feature, the Lanzarote Hurdle, was won far too easily for the handicapper's peace of mind by Tomahawk.
That one looked sure to be the day's easiest winner, until the fifth race at Haydock. Racegoers enjoyed the incongruous spectacle of Mark Dwyer on Young Benz sitting statue-still upsides Carl Llewellyn on Macarthur as the latter rode for all he was worth with the line beckoning. His efforts were wasted, as Dwyer pushed his mount out for a win that was not so much cheeky as plain impudent.
It was Dwyer's day, no question. But he will be impatient for a still better one in March.Reuse content