Solo and Mister Malarky stake Cheltenham Claims

As the Cheltenham Festival nears, most horses entered for their respective races will be fine-tuning their preparations in final training gallops. However, two horses emerged from the weekend Kempton meeting as serious contenders for their intended targets. Both Solo and Mister Malarky had not really been prominent among the ante-post lists but that has now changed after their latest noteworthy performances.

After finishing second and then winning his only two hurdle races in France, Solo moved to the Paul Nicholls yard and was making his UK racecourse debut when featuring the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton Park. Yet it was the manner of his victory which aroused so much interest in the 4-year-old colt.

Leading for most of the way, he raced with much enthusiasm accompanied by slick stylish jumping and eventually scored easily by thirteen lengths with the remainder toiling in his wake. It was the relentless galloping of the horse which impressed many viewers and he has now been installed as favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the festival.

Fellow juveniles Goshen and Allmankind will prove difficult opposition in that contest as they have both impressed this term and are unbeaten over hurdles, but Solo could prove difficult to beat if reproducing that Kempton effort.

On the same card, Mister Malarky was competing in the Betway Handicap Chase after a disappointing season to date. Fourth in last season’s RSA Chase, the Colin Tizzard trained horse finished sixth in Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy before a lifeless display at Ascot during late December when eventually pulled up.

Heavy ground may have been a reason for that latest defeat, but there would be no excuses for racing in his more favoured good to soft conditions at Kempton. The 7-year-old gelding seemed more like his old self on this occasion.

Leading around the final bend, Mister Malarky withstood the challenges of several rivals, including the Bryony Frost mount Black Corton, to win the contest by two lengths and claim his first victory since February last year.

It may just be that the horse has taken time to gel this season after two difficult races at Cheltenham and Aintree last term. There was much to like about his performance at Kempton and he will now be aimed at the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival for which he could have realistic claims.

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