A number of winners at Exeter Racecourse throughout the National Hunt horse racing season go on the four-day Cheltenham Festival on March 12-15, with live chances of following up on their exploits in Devon.
Although the Cheltenham track is configured left-handed and races at Exeter are staged the other way around, the undulating and testing nature of going up into the Haldon Hills can be ideal preparation. With that in mind, here are four Exeter winners to follow at the Festival.
1. Defi Du Seuil
Philip Hobbs-trained six-year-old Defi Du Seuil kickstarted his chasing career by winning a competitive novices' event at the Devon track in December. This JP McManus-owned gelding is a class horse that won the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival two years ago when he was the undisputed best National Hunt juvenile.
Defi Du Seuil really came on for his debut over fences at Cheltenham and a step up in distance to 2m 3f when jumping well at Exeter. He ran out a comfortable winner from Topofthegame, who gave the field 20 lengths at the start, and Black Op. The runner-up and third look to have live Festival chances of their own in the three-mile RSA Chase and Stayers' Hurdle, respectively.
It's encouraging that Defi Du Seuil has since improved again and landed the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown. He could run in either the Arkle Challenge Trophy or the two-and-a-half-mile JLT Golden Miller, for which he's described as a leading candidate among the Cheltenham tips on Betfair. His Festival target probably won't be decided until the last minute because the owner's Arkle fancy Le Richebourg is injured.
2. Siruh Du Lac
North Devon handler Nick Williams is accustomed to Cheltenham Festival winners after landing the Fred Winter with Flying Tiger in 2017 and Ultima Handicap Chase thanks to Coo Star Sivola last year. In Siruh Du Lac, he has an improving six-year-old that has won all three of his starts this season.
Regularly ridden by stepdaughter Lizzie Kelly, this horse has already shown battling qualities to prevail gamely in a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham. That head victory over Janika saw Siruh Du Lac complete his hat-trick after scoring at Exeter previously.
He is a leading fancy for the similar grade Brown Advisory Stable Plate on day three of the Festival, which is run over the same course and distance as his win most recent win. This race would need to cut up a bit for Siruh Du Lac to get in but, if he is allowed to take his chance, he could well add to five wins from seven starts over fences.
3. Getaway Trump
Ditcheat trainer Paul Nicholls has been in fine form coming into this year's Cheltenham Festival. Getaway Trump is one from his stable that could be quickly turned out after defeat up at Kelso. The six-year-old won a two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle at Exeter before running really well when second to Champ in the Grade 1 Challow at Newbury.
Getaway Trump perhaps lacked the pace to challenge when fourth on his handicap debut in the Betfair Hurdle. While he was disappointing when filling the same spot in a Grade 2 novice race last time out, a step back up in trip may be called for. The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle or Coral Cup Handicap, both over around 2m 5f on the second day of the Festival, are possible targets.
Leading Irish owner McManus has another impressive Exeter winner in his 2019 Cheltenham Festival team in five-year-old Nicky Henderson-trained mare Epatante. This French import won a Grade 1 age restricted National Hunt Flat Race across the Channel which led to her purchase.
Epatante proved herself a cut-above the rest of a nine-runner field in a mares' novice hurdle at Exeter. She travelled strongly throughout to justify a 1/6 starting price and win easily. Off the back of that, Epatante is well-fancied for the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle on day three of Cheltenham.