Al Dancer advertises Cheltenham claims with impressive Betfair Hurdle win

Al Dancer did just what had been anticipated at Newbury before the equine flu outbreak intervened, toying with a strong field to land the rearranged Betfair Hurdle with more than just a few pounds to spare.  

Victory on Saturday set the Dai Walters-owned winner up perfectly for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle on March 12, a race for which he is now vying, along with Fakir D’Oudairies and Angels Breath, for market supremacy as the general 4-1 co-favourite.

Those prices will make for pleasant reading for Walters in particular, with Angels Breath also set to carry his familiar navy and white silks in the opening contest of the Cheltenham Festival.

The three-and-three-quarter-length win, from 20-1 runner-up Magic Dancer and 100-1 shot Blu Cavalier, who ran a screamer back in third, not only gave trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies a third win in the race in the last six years, but also confirmed to him the Supreme over an extended two miles, rather than the Ballymore over two miles and five furlongs, was the right target to aim at.

"We were thinking about the longer race but Sam [Twiston-Davies] said he didn't settle well enough early and we have to go for the Supreme now," said the winning trainer, who was happy to do his own toying with the winning owner after the race.

He added: "If Dai has first and second in it, it won't be too bad will it? And obviously his other one will be second to us! We've got Al Dancer quite calm now but he was just a bit fresh early on."

For all that his early exuberance could be seen as a negative with Cheltenham in mind, not to mention the succession of horses, including Ballyandy, My Tent Or Yours and Kalashnikov, beaten when fancied for the Supreme after landing the Betfair Hurdle convincingly, there was an air of superiority about Al Dancer both before, during and after the bloodless success.

"In terms of raw ability, he's superb," eulogised the winning trainer, who is most looking forward to the winner going over fences. "Look at the scope of him – he's such a good jumper and you'd imagine he'd find fences even easier."

It was the immediate future, and the Supreme in particular, at the forefront of the winning rider's mind.

"He's all speed," said Twiston-Davies jnr. "He was keen but still got the job done. It was a good bit of experience leading into Cheltenham and hopefully we get him there sound, safe and healthy."