All roads lead to Cheltenham and with that in mind each week we review the top performances from the previous week, giving you the biggest Cheltenham Ante-Post Market Movers.
25th – 1st December
When Paul Nicholls tells you he’s one of his favourites it’s one to make make a note of and those who did would of been richly rewarded returning at 4/1 in the Kempton Beginners’ Chase.
On paper it looked like Supreme Novices’ 2nd Thomas Darby would be the one to beat but he was ultimately very disappointing finishing a tailed off 3rd of the 7 runners.
This was Master Tommytucker’s first run in 408, faving last been seen falling and suffering a fractured knee at Chepstow on his chasing debut when holding every chance. You’d imagine he will improve tonnes for this and with the Master of Ditchet saying he posseses a “huge amount of ability” in his Stable Tour, the 20/1 for the JLT could soon be gone!
The string of Mares Nicky Henderson has assembled looks unrivaled and Epatante could be the best of the lot.
She romped home in the Listed Hurdle with the Seven Barrows man filling the places as well. After the race Nicky went on to say “She was impressive and the second horse is no mug – nor is the third, actually.”
A hugely disappointing favourite for the Mares Novice hurdle at the Festival on paper may put some off but it was well documented the flu jab in the lead up affected many of his string.
Along with Dan Skelton’s Roksanna, she looks the strongest British chance in the race albeit at this very early stage!
18th – 24th November
Footpad couldnt have been more impressive when landing a Listed Chase at Thurles where the 10 length victory could easily have been much further.
There is no doubting his quality and the Ryanair looks the perfect target for the Simon Munit and Isaac Souede owned 7 year old. Whilst he was poor in the race last year, that came off the back of an interupted prep and with a clear run the 2018 Arkle winner will be a lot closer this time round.
Arguably the most impressive of all the Novice Chasers’ we’ve seen so far this year; Angels Breath looked a pro at Ascot to beat a select but quality field which included stable mate Birchdale.
There is a worry that he is not the most consistent – he has only won first time out so it would be no surprise if we see little of him until March.
JLT is the obvious race for him unlike his market rivals who could be seen in a multiple of different races, the 12/1 is unlikely to be long gone before the Thursday of the Festival.
Like Angels Breath, Laurina couldn’t have won much better in the Gowran Beginners Chase and beating the Grade 1 winning Novice Hurdler Minella Indo in the process.
Whilst this was over further than the Arkle trip, you need to stay to win an Arkle so this should still be her race. Now 9/2 for the race with Fakir D’Oudairies next best, there shouldn’t be too much change in her price unless her market rivals go elsewhere or she backs up her Gowran debut with another explosive display.
Whilst Altior couldn’t make it 20 wins in a row, he did probably enhance his chances for another Cheltenham Festival success.
Realistaclly it will either be the Gold Cup or the Champion Chase and one would imagine he’d have to conclusively prove he can stay in the King George for connections to not go down the Champion Chase route.
With it looking like a real high class King George, the Champion Chase now looks the most likely race and there is not a chance he will still be 5/2 if he’s declared for the race.
11th – 17th November
After 569 days off the track connections were just wanting to see if some of the Douvan of old was still there and they saw that and more!
Whilst he may never get back to the level of his devastating best it was still a sensational performance considering the absence. Some brilliant jumps and a couple of mistakes saw Douvan land the Clonmel Oil Chase by a comfortable 9 ½ lengths from the decent yard stick Jett and Monalee a further 7 lengths back.
The Gold Cup looks unlikely but no decision on whether it’s the Ryanair or the Champion Chase will be made anytime soon. Both look solid options and most likely it will come down to which race looks more winnable.
Not many make their Chase debuts at 11 but then again theres even less that were better than Faugheen over hurdles.
It was a comfortable success in the end on Saturday when winning the Punchestown Beginners Chase but the opposition was questionable. The biggest market move was quite rightly in the JLT with the 2 mile Arkle trip likely to be on the short side.
The Greenmount Park Novice Chase, A Grade 1 at Limerick over Christmas looks the obvious next race and an impressive victory would see him move right to the top of the Cheltenham Ante Post markets.
Its great to see a quality horse move into the Cross Country sphere and whilst not all take to the discipline, Yanworth supporters would have been pleased with what they saw on Sunday.
Whilst he wasn’t brilliant over some of the obstacles, for a first attempt it was more than promising and 8/1 in the Cross Country Cheltenham Ante Post market should appeal to many who are looking for an alternative to Tiger Roll in March.
This was supposed to see Klassical Dream harden at the top of the Champion Hurdle Ante post market, instead we saw the emergence of another Willie Mullins inmate.
Saldier arguably had the strongest form going into the Morgiana – a fall when last seen a year a go when travelling better than the ill-fated Champion Hurdle winner Espoir Allen. That didn’t stop Saldier going off at 7/1 and he was well on top at the line when recording a 1 ½ length success.
Now only Buveur D’Air is ahead of him in the Champion Hurdle market but surely how close Petit Mouchoir finished to him must be a worry as come March Petit Mouchoir wouldn’t have much of a hope at Cheltenham.
Defi Du Seuil
Not many relish the Cheltenham hill more than Defi Du Seuil and it would be no surprise to see Phillip Hobbs’s stable star claim a 3rd Festival prize this season.
He may have been getting 3lb off Politologue but he would of won without it and at this stage would certainly hold a leading chance in either the Ryanair or Champion Chase. Considering the Tingle Creek is the next target suggests the Champion Chase is the aim at this stage and he won’t be 7/1 on the day for sure.