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The excitement is building ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in March

Trials Day at Cheltenham on Saturday offered up some tantalising races and really shook up some Festival markets, with Champion Chaser Energumene beaten in the Clarence House Chase.

Paisley Park was defeated in his quest to win a fourth Cleeve Hurdle, with a French festival contender emerging, while Ahoy Senor put his career back on track by winning the Cotswold Chase.

We take a look back at the weekend's racing action and the potential impacts on the Cheltenham Festival betting.

Editeur Du Gite shakes up Champion Chase

Saturday's Clarence House Chase at Ascot was supposed to be provide confirmation that Energumene was the leading two-mile chaser by some distance but, instead, it left him with lots of questions to answer.

Last year's Queen Mother Champion Chase winner was already looking in trouble when he paddled through the final fence at Cheltenham, leaving Editeur Du Gite to edge out Edwardstone in a thriller up the hill.

Frontrunning Editeur Du Gite looked a sitting duck as Arkle winner Edwardstone put his head in front on the run-in, but Alan King's charge wasn't ahead for long as the game winner rallied to get the verdict.

Gary Moore's Editeur Du Gite is now 5/1 to win the Champion Chase on 15th March, with Energumene out to 2/1 and Edwardstone 2/1.

Mullins felt Energumene's performance was affected by the white trim on the fences at Cheltenham but he and Paul Townend remain calm and confident a second Champion Chase will be won.

"Paul was very keen on him after the race and said come March, he wouldn't swap him for the two that finished in front of him," said the trainer on Sunday.

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Ahoy Senor back on track

Ahoy Senor put himself right back in the Cheltenham Gold Cup mix after winning the Cotswold Chase for trainer Lucinda Russell on Trials Day.

A smart novice last term, Ahoy Senor's three moderate runs meant his odds for Cheltenham Festival glory had drifted to as big as 50/1 before Saturday. He is now 12/1 in the Gold Cup betting.

Ahoy Senor came up the hill in determined fashion to overhaul Ruth Jefferson's Sounds Russian, with Noble Yeats behind in third and favourite Protektorat no better than fourth for the Skelton brothers.

"I think it was a bit of a shock to him to go into this company straight after his novice season," said Russell. "There's no easy races at the top and it just took him a bit of time to get into it, but he's learned now and he settles and jumps well."

Protektorat is now 16/1 for the Gold Cup but connections of Emmet Mullins' Noble Yeats would have been pleased with his rallying finish after coming under pressure a fair way from home. 

Stamina is clearly his thing and he's now clear 10/1 favourite to retain his mantle at Aintree on 15th April.

Trainer Dan Skelton said he'd learned a bit more about Protektorat and dispelled any fears his Gold Cup hopes have been dashed prematurely.

"We're deflated on the day but I don't think this means anything," said the trainer. 

"His Haydock run will be overlooked because he's finished fourth today and been underwhelming, but I know why it's happened. I trusted him and I thought I'd done enough [work at home], but the evidence suggests that wasn't the case."

Gold Tweet a dream win for Leenders

Gabriel Leenders hailed Gold Tweet's win in the Cleeve Hurdle as a 'dream' come true after his charge wore down the game Dasher Drasher to win the Stayers' Hurdle dress rehearsal.

Leenders, a top-level winner in his home country, had spells with Nicky Henderson and David Pipe before he set up on his own and was having his first runner at Cheltenham as Gold Tweet landed the Grade 2.

Emma Lavelle suggested Paisley Park will 'absolutely' be back for the Stayers' in March, where he is now 16/1 to win, while reflecting on Monday that the pace in the Cleeve may not have been strong enough.

"I just think the fact that he was so close to the pace and travelling so comfortably suggested they just weren't going quick enough for him to make it a test at the end of the race," she said.

"There's a myriad of reasons you could use or think or see, but for me they just hadn't gone quick enough for him and Aidan (Coleman, jockey) slightly felt the same thing."

Meanwhile, Gold Tweet requires a supplementary entry for the race on 16th March back in Cheltenham and connections will take some time to ponder that.

"It's expensive to supplement him for the Stayers' Hurdle and we are not rich, but I will talk with the owner and we'll see. If it's possible we will go and it would be a dream to come here in March," said Leenders.

Echoes In Rain advertises Mares' Hurdle claims

Echoes In Rain won the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas on Sunday for Mullins and Townend and, in doing so, got the seal of approval from Ireland's champion trainer for the Mares' Hurdle, a race she's now 5/1 to win at the Cheltenham Festival.

She was second to Honeysuckle in last season's Punchestown Champion Hurdle and enjoyed a good campaign on the Flat, including an agonising last-stride defeat in the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh.

That suggested stamina and, while she too strong for the likes of stablemate Cash Back and Bob Olinger in the Naas Grade 3 over just shy of two miles, Mullins believes the longer distance in the Mares' race at Cheltenham will suit her best rising in class.

"She did that nicely, probably better than I expected," said the Closutton handler. 

"She will be more at home in a faster-run race. I'm not sure she is sharp enough at two miles when she steps up in grade so I would imagine the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham will be her next port of call."

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