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Weekend Review - McCain propels himself into top grade

Donald McCain shines at Haydock with four-timer to notch up century

Having taken over the training baton from his legendary father Ginger, it was always going to be a rollercoaster ride for Donald McCain, but at Haydock Park he showed that he is now up there with the likes of Messrs Henderson, Nicholls and Mullins with a spectacular four-timer.

Already a leading figure in the North, McCain has shown this campaign that he can fight it out with the national hunt heavyweights and as he recorded his 100th winner at the Yorkshire track on Saturday and showed he is certainly a man to watch at the Cheltenham Festival.

Obviously Ballabriggs' win in the Grand National last year propelled him on to the back pages, but it has been his meteroic rise in recent seasons that has now seen him secure his fastest century by three months and cement his place at the pinnacle of the jumping world.

Only behind Nicky Henderson in the winners table, McCain has all the makings of a future champion trainer and with such stable ammunition such as Peddlers Cross (Arkle) and impressive Haydock winner Cinders And Ashes (Supreme Novices' Hurdle) McCain will continue to stay in the spotlight as he gears up to what could be a fruitful Cheltenham Festival in March.

Mikael shows 'old swagger' at Naas

Rich Ricci, owner of Mikael D'Haguenet, has been buoyed by his raider's recent performances and he claimed the Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old has shown signs of his 'old swagger'.

A facile success at Naas on Saturday certainly showed the former Cheltenham Festival winner could be back on track after a tilt over fences didn't go to plan.  One of the leading novice hurdlers in 2009 when storming to victory in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park, the Co. Carlow inmate was then sent over fences, but struggled to deal with the larger obstacles with some indifferent performances.

However, his emphatic success in the Limestone Lad Hurdle at the weekend was his third recent success back over hurdles and he now has to be regarded as a major player at the Cheltenham Festival.

Ricci was unsure what path his star would take in March, but he is 20/1 for the World Hurdle, whilst a 50/1 outsider for the Champion Hurdle and is definitely one to watch in what could be a surprise package in one of the Championship races at the Festival.

Mullins continues to shine in Bumpers

Willie Mullins has been pulling out bumper winners left, right and centre and the Co. Carlow handler will certainly have a difficult task when trying to compile his potential Champion Bumper runners for the Cheltenham Festival contest on March 14.

Champagane Fever propelled himself to the head of the market with an impressive victory at Fairyhouse on Sunday, but with the likes of Un Atout also likely to represent Mullins as well as some potential unseen youngsters then there will have to be a shrewd trainer to stop Mullins winning his seventh Champion Bumper crown.

One To Watch

Smad Place stormed to victory in the Holloway's Hurdle at the weekend and enhanced last year's Triumph Hurdle form even further, but it was a majestic performance as the Alan King-trained raider grabbed success after nearly a year off.

Slashed for the World Hurdle following his Ascot success, King has already shown trepidation in handing him that assignment, but the National Spirit Hurdle is the next stop at Fontwell and we will certainly find out then if he can be a potential player in the Cheltenham contest on March 15.

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