Just because a favourite triumphs unchallenged at long odds-on by an extreme distance in a small field, it does not mean any lack of excitement. Such a spectacle, as those who followed Frankel last year on the Flat can testify, can be a thrill in itself. And so it was at Musselburgh yesterday, when the wholly admirable Overturn produced his third solo tour de force in as many runs over fences in his final outing before the Cheltenham Festival.
The nine-year-old, racing with his trademark zest, made every yard of the running and was, as required, brilliant, bold, nimble, accurate or clever at his obstacles. But though he started at 1-5, he is nonetheless only second market choice for next month's Arkle Trophy. The gauntlet he slapped down is due to be picked up at Newbury on Saturday by the hot favourite for the two-mile novices' crown, Simonsig, a stablemate of yesterday's 29-length runner-up Tetlami.
"I have respect for Simonsig," said Overturn's trainer Donald McCain. "But we don't have to be scared of him. He may well beat us at Cheltenham but if he does he will know he's had a race, that's for sure."
Overturn was racing yesterday for the 40th time in a career that has previously brought Flat success in a Chester Cup and a Northumberland Plate along with hurdles glory in the shape of a Fighting Fifth victory and a Champion Hurdle second place.
The versatile gelding is as much loved by his trainer, rider Jason Maguire and owner Tim Leslie as he is by the public and was allowed to embark on a chasing campaign only after some soul-searching.
"We were almost looking for reasons not to send him over fences," added McCain. "If he had made one mistake when we started schooling him we wouldn't have. But from the very first day he did at home what he does on the track. He just loves it."
At Punchestown yesterday Sizing Europe was another odds-on winner – in his case 1-8 – but although his 10-length defeat of Foildubh was more workman-like than spectacular in testing conditions, it was decisive enough and a job perfectly satisfactorily done ahead of Cheltenham.
The former two-mile champion, unbeaten in four this season, holds entries in the festival's senior Grade 1 chases across the distance spectrum, but his target has yet to be decided. "We will wait and see how everything unfolds," said Sizing Europe's trainer Henry de Bromhead.
The various authorities proved highly flexible yesterday in accommodating the needs of trainers, punters and the sport generally and there is more of the same today at Doncaster, where an extra-day card features a key Champion Hurdle prep race.
The initiative has been richly rewarded with the presence of not only Rock On Ruby, the reigning title holder, but one of the leading pretenders to the crown, Darlan.
CHRIS McGRATH'S NAP: Ruben Cotter (2.25 Doncaster))
Newcomer to fences who looked decent when he won at three miles over hurdles last term. Has the pedigree to match; he is from the close family of Gold Cup hero Davy Lad.
NEXT BEST: Vitznau (3.50 Wolverhampton)
Failed to get home over a mile last time after travelling easily until the end, now drops back to his ideal trip, and is down in grade as well.
ONE TO WATCH: One-time Cheltenham Festival winner Bensalem (Alan King) is reportedly back to excellent form and heading for the Festival after a near two-year absence because of injury.
WHERE THE MONEY'S GOING: Mozoltov has been cut for the Supreme Novices Hurdle, 14-1 from 20s with Paddy Power, after his defeat of hotshot Don Cossack at Punchestown yesterday.Reuse content