Some of the would-be pretenders to Honeysuckle's Champion Hurdle crown advertised their wares this weekend, while there were also warning signs for British hopes of quelling Irish domination at the Cheltenham Festival.
Teahupoo and Adagio strengthened their positions in the Champion Hurdle betting for Gordon Elliott and David Pipe respectively, but the Ascot Chase win for Joseph O'Brien's Fakir D'oudairies very much leaves Britain's Festival hopes in the balance once more.
Here's our review of the weekend's action and the impact it's had on the Festival ante-post markets.
Nothing will stop Honeysuckle going off as firm favourite to retain her Champion Hurdle crown on 15th March, with Henry De Bromhead's unbeaten mare trading at 1/2 for the contest already.
The weekend, however, at least saw some of her would-be rivals strengthening their cases to give her a race, if nothing else.
Teahupoo missed Cheltenham last spring, but the Elliott-trained runner has now won six of his seven career starts, following his impressive successive in the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial at Gowran Park on Saturday under Robbie Power.
The only defeat of his career was behind Cheltenham Festival winner Jeff Kidder at Fairyhouse last April and Teahupoo has clearly progressed since then.
He's beaten Triumph Hurdle winner Quilixios three times this season, that rival was only third on Saturday with 155-rated Darasso an 11-length second behind the impressive winner.
Afterwards, winning rider Power suggested: "He felt like a different horse altogether. He has improved an awful lot since I rode him last season. He has got a lot stronger and his jumping is now really slick."
Teahupoo is now 8/1 to win the Champion Hurdle and could be the main threat to the star mare. Adagio, meanwhile, is 20/1 after going down battling behind Goshen in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.
That was a solid effort behind a really talented rival in Goshen and Pipe was quick to point out that Adagio will come on for the run. Cheltenham is next for him now and only former winner Epatante is shorter in the betting of those trained in Britain.
Adagio, of course, was second to the aforementioned Quilixios in that Triumph Hurdle at the Festival last season.
Ground conditions were testing at Haydock on Saturday afternoon where Henry Daly's Hillcrest ran out a convincing winner of the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices' Hurdle.
The Venetia Williams-trained Green Book, a talented sort in his own right, engaged him in battle for the opening half of the race but he was left flailing as the relentless Hillcrest pushed on in the closing stages.
His only defeat so far was when he was rather unfortunate to unseat at Cheltenham on Trials Day last month.
Post-race at Haydock, trainer Daly had no qualms in labelling Hillcrest the 'best horse he has trained' and suggested it's 'not rocket science' in now targeting the Albert Bartlett over three-miles on 18th March.
The Irish challenge is strong with the likes of 4/1 Minella Crooner and 6/1 Ginto, but at 7/1 Hillcrest deserves maximum respect after Saturday's stamina-laden showing.
Saturday's win for Fakir D'oudairies was another blow to Britain's hopes pre-Festival.
The Joseph O'Brien-trained runner hasn't been able to lay a blow on Allaho at home this season, but yet came to Ascot and took out some of Britain's would-be contenders for Cheltenham to win a Grade 1 prize at the Berkshire venue.
His win means Allaho is now as short as 1/1 to retain the Ryanair Chase prize on 17th March and a St Patrick's Day party for the Irish seems almost inevitable in that race.
Fakir D'oudairies, second last March, is a 14/1 chance in the betting following his gutsy defeat of Two For Gold at Ascot.
The likes of Energumene, Conflated and Chacun Pour Soi trade shorter in the Ryanair betting, but will surely be aimed elsewhere come Cheltenham.
Even Fakir D'oudairies might be held back himself with Aintree's Melling Chase in mind if connections decide they don't have faith in overturning Allaho.
Also victorious on Saturday in Ireland was Melon, winner of the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. That was his first win since late 2019, but Melon could be interesting in the Ryanair at 14/1 himself.
He has been runner-up four times at the Cheltenham Festival, with last year's blip in the Ryanair the only black mark against his name. If Allaho failed to perform for some reason, the ten-year-old could pick up the pieces.
It was a good day for Gary Moore on Saturday with Goshen bagging the Kingwell and Porticello justifying cramped odds to win the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle at Haydock.
Already a Grade 1 winner at Chepstow this term, Josh Moore's mount dominated from the front on Saturday and was an easy 17-length winner as he deputised for brother Jamie, who was at Wincanton to partner Goshen.
Porticello has only been defeated once in five starts over hurdles, when second to Knight Salute in a Doncaster Grade 2 in December.
Connections are adamant that he'll want ease in the ground come Cheltenham, but that's certainly possible come the Friday of the Festival and recent weather conditions may help.
The Irish hand is strong in the Triumph, but at 12/1 Porticello cannot be discounted entirely and, given the fate that befell Goshen in the race a few years ago, few would begrudge a redemptive win for trainer Gary and son Jamie in the Juvenile Grade 1 come 18th March.