Matt Brocklebank adds to his Cheltenham Festival portfolio with bets in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle and RSA Chase.
There isn't much between Bellshill and CONEY ISLAND on the form book and, in light of their respective prices for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, Eddie Harty's charge rates a fantastic bet at 12/1 (general price) for the staying novice chase crown.
He's always looked a nice prospect but only really announced himself on the big stage when battling to a half-length second behind Willie Mullins' charge in the Grade One novice hurdle over three miles at Punchestown last April.
That must have filled connections with hope ahead of a novice chasing campaign and the six-year-old hasn't let them down, shaping with immense promise on his debut in this sphere when second to Haymount in November.
Haymount, subsequently second to Bellshill himself, showed the better turn of foot to score by three and a half lengths on that occasion but Coney Island has built on that performance with two excellent efforts at the highest level since.
Firstly, he oozed class when beating Anibale Fly to win the Drinmore at Fairyhouse, while his most recent outing at Leopardstown will hopefully have made a man of him, having had to settle for second.
He jumped wonderfully for Barry Geraghty over Christmas and was only narrowly outpointed by the year-older Our Duke and if anything it was an improvement on the bare form he'd shown over two and a half miles in winning his Grade One.
Stepped up to three miles for the first time over fences, he was coming back again at the line having been headed so clearly doesn't mind a fight and those battling qualities, combined with his latent talent and jumping accuracy, make him a sumptuous proposition for his maiden trip to Cheltenham.
We can fully expect Coney Island to receive an entry for the JLT Novices' Chase as well, and he's no bigger than 14/1 for that alternative engagement, but connections would be wise to avoid clashing with the much speedier types such as Yorkhill and Buveur D'Air, who wouldn't look out of place in the Arkle.
There have been five Irish-trained winners of the RSA Chase in the last 10 years and it looks like being another strong assault on the race, with Might Bite the shortest of the Brits (also around 12/1) and he took a crashing fall at Kempton when last seen.
Might Bite's stablemate Whisper beat Clan Des Obeaux at Cheltenham when giving him 5lb on New Year's Day and, given his experience in big races, the battle-hardened nine-year-old would have to merit respect if taking this route, rather than the JLT.
Either way, 4/1 market leader Bellshill looks worth taking on, despite his unbeaten record over the larger obstacles so far this term.
He's been well held on his two previous visits to Prestbury Park - finishing 10th of 23 in the Champion Bumper won by Moon Racer and 13th of 14 in last year's Sky Bet Supreme - and there's no getting away from the fact his very best form is on deep winter ground.
Coney Island blossomed in the spring last year and, with his trainer already talking in terms of future Cheltenham Gold Cups for the son of Flemensfirth, now looks the ideal time to get him on side before running plans for some of his potential rivals becomes a little clearer.
With the Deloitte Novice Hurdle looming large in the middle of next month, the novice hurdle division also looks worth dipping into.
Mullins has sent out the last three Deloitte winners, Champagne Fever and Vautour going on to win the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and he is responsible for a remarkable 21 entries in the Leopardstown Grade One this year.
The well-touted Melon is conspicuous by his absence and is seemingly heading for a maiden hurdle at Gowran Park this week instead, but all the other big names are engaged, including CILAOS EMERY.
He's the shortest of the Mullins brigade for the Supreme but still has the potential to shorten considerably from the 10/1 available with Betfair Sportsbook (8/1 generally, including NRNB with Sky Bet) and is well worth adding to the portfolio prior to the Deloitte.
He won his only outing last term when scoring in a 17-runner bumper at the Punchestown Festival and while that form hasn't worked out brilliantly, he could not have been more impressive when taking a maiden hurdle apart at Navan in December.
And there is substance to that form which suggests he could go right to the top this season. Only one of the 13 horses to have subsequently raced from that maiden has won, but importantly that one is the second Joey Sasa, who was beaten six lengths by the Mullins runner and in turn had eight and a half lengths to spare over the rest.
Not only did Joey Sasa strike next time out from subsequent 12-length Fairyhouse winner Barra, but he had previously finished a neck second to Brelade, who went on to finish a two-length second to Cilaos Emery's stablemate Saturnas in the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle over Christmas.
These form lines are undeniably strong and suggest Cilaos Emery could be a genuine top-notcher who is going to announce himself in a big way on February 12.
The Supreme market still has quite a strange look to it, with the 141-rated Moon Racer proving a little uneasy at the head of the betting having not been seen since winning the Cheltenham trial that Altior took en route to victory last year.
With one or two doubts over him, punters are seemingly turning to Nicky Henderson's juvenile Charli Parcs.
Henderson recently suggested he was hoping the horse could develop into 'the new Binocular' and with that in mind he could obviously take a similar route to him and head for the Supreme as a four-year-old, rather than the Triumph Hurdle, for which he is half the price at 7/1.
It would also make some sense to keep Charli Parcs and current Triumph favourite Defi Du Seuil apart from one another considering they're in the same ownership. All may become a little clearer after the weekend as they are both entered in Saturday's JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.
JP McManus also has Consul De Thaix in the mix for the Supreme and he gets the chance to enhance his reputation when lining up from a mark of 140 in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
Get Me Out Of Here was beaten a head in the Supreme for McManus in 2010 after winning the Newbury race from a perch of 135 so if Consul De Thaix goes close then he is at least entitled to line up in the Grade One curtain-raiser at the Festival.
But the Supreme has been dominated by Mullins in recent seasons and above all others it's the immense potential of Cilaos Emery that looks to have been underestimated.
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Posted at 0830 GMT on 24/01/16.