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Eye on Cheltenham – Verdana Blue and Apple’s Jade rise in Festival betting after Footpad’s surprise flop

Jonathan Vine in News 13 Nov 2018
Jack Kennedy coasts home on Apple's Jade after winning the Lismullen Hurdle.

We bring you the latest news and betting developments in the 2019 Cheltenham Festival markets after a sea of stars were on show at Wincanton, Naas and Navan over the weekend.

Heading into a bumper weekend of action across Britain and Ireland, all eyes were on Footpad, as he started out on his road towards a showdown with Altior in the Champion Chase. Willie Mullins charge didn’t put a foot wrong throughout his novice campaign, but it was soon evident the Footpad who destroyed smart fields throughout 2017/18 hadn’t made the trip to Naas on Saturday.

Ruby Walsh’s mount registered a dreadful jumping display, giving away ground to the strong-travelling Saint Calvados at every obstacle. The favourite was beaten approaching the last obstacles and it was no surprise to see another terrible leap, which resulted in Ruby Walsh being hurdled to the canvas.

The 7/2 second-favourite for the Champion Chase before that reappearance, Footpad was pushed out to 5/1 in the betting for that Cheltenham Festival contest with Betfair. Saint Calvados was a 50/1 shot prior to that surprise victory and Betfair slashed Harry Whittington’s classy chaser into 16/1 from 50s.

One favourite who managed to live up to expectations in Ireland over the weekend was Apple’s Jade, who returned to Navan to have another crack at the Lismullen Hurdle. Gordon Elliott’s mare carried an odds-on price to post and duly put the field to the sword, streaking clear to retain that Grade Two by an eleven length margin.

During a recent stable tour, Elliott revealed that his star mare kept coming into season during the first half of the year, a contributing factor behind her limp performances during Festival season. After storming to victory on Sunday, Apple’s Jade was installed as the new 3/1 favourite to win back her Mares’ Hurdle crown at the Festival, with William Hill also cutting her price into 10/1 from 14s in the Stayers’ Hurdle market.

Ballyoisin cruised to a lengthy victory in the Grade Two Fortria Chase and was clipped into 20/1 by William Hill to win the Ryanair. While Rhinestone earned quotes of 25/1 from Ladbrokes for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle after winning on his first start over jumps, Felix Desjy and Quick Grabim slipped alarmingly down the betting for the Cheltenham Festival opener after being well beaten in Grade Three company.

Noel Fehile pushes Bags Grooze out after the last in the Rising Stars at Wincanton.

Over in England, a capacity crowd looked on at Wincanton as Bryony Frost and Present Man scored in the Badger Ales Trophy for the second successive season. The big winner on the day, however, was Verdana Blue, who continued her excellent autumn form with a comfortable victory in the Grade Two Elite Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson had planned on entering his mare in the Champion Hurdle last year, only for the ground to go against her. After scorching to victory at Wincanton, William Hill clipped her odds in Tuesday’s feature race into 25s from 40/1, with Paddy Power cutting Verdana Blue’s price in the Mares’ Hurdle into 6/1.

If The Cap Fits was making his first appearance since February at Wincanton and shaped with plenty of promise in finishing second behind Verdana Blue. Harry Fry’s charge was cut into 20/1 by William Hill in the Champion Hurdle, as third-placed We Have A Dream moved in the opposite direction, drifting out to 33/1.

Despite If The Cap Fit’s defeat. Fry was celebrating at Wincanton as Bags Groove put in a superb round of jumping to win the Grade Two Rising Stars Novices’ Chase, earning himself fresh quotes of 33/1 to win the JLT at Cheltenham with Betfair.

Kilbricken Storm opened his account over fences at the first time of asking on Sunday, claiming victory in a three mile novices’ chase. While BetVictor clipped his odds into 20/1 to win the RSA, William Hill was much less impressed with the Albert Bartlett champion’s chasing debut, pushing his price out to 20/1 from 16s.

Another to take their first steps over fences last week was Kalashnikov, who took on just three rivals in a beginner’s chase at Warwick on Friday. Amy Murphy’s charge ground out a nice victory in the end, strengthening his position at the head of the Arkle betting, with William Hill clipped his odds in from 7s to 5/1.

In other news, Cheltenham racecourse has announced they will be trialling a moveable stretch of rail which will take the place of the tape which caused so much controversy during the Showcase Meeting. One For Billy and Oighear Dubh both looked destined for victory before jumping through the tape which was to corner section off the turn back into the inner track, which would have taken both horses on another circuit of the course.

"The temporary arrangements (tape) worked,” Simon Claisse, Cheltenham director of racing, said to The Guardian today, “but from my point of view they were taking too long and there was still a risk a loose horse coming back around the track would cause difficulties for the people trying to install the rail.

“Now, instead of moving nine sections of rail and pins independently, we’ve come up with a plan to move a 36-yard length of rail in one go, with as many people as that’ll need, probably eight or nine people. The pin is already in the leg, so it makes that move easier.”

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Eye on Cheltenham – Verdana Blue and Apple’s Jade rise in Festival betting after Footpad’s surprise flop

We bring you the latest news and betting developments in the 2019 Cheltenham Festival markets after a sea of stars were on show at Wincanton, Naas and Navan over the weekend on Saturday 27th October.

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