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Eye on Cheltenham week seventeen - Latest Cheltenham Festival betting news following bumper week of racing

Brian Healy in News 18 Feb 2019
We recap another exciting week on the Road to the Cheltenham Festival.

We bring you all the latest betting and developments in the ante-post markets ahead of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival after a huge week of racing across the UK and Ireland.

The Road to the Cheltenham Festival continues unabated despite the best efforts of the equine influenza drama to scupper the ‘greatest show on turf; and after another cracking week of top-class horse racing action across the UK and Ireland, there has been plenty of developments and movements in the Cheltenham Festival betting.

UK horse racing returned to the fray on Wednesday following the BHA decision to allow the sport to recommence in the wake of the equine ‘flu outbreak, and Gordon Elliott’s prolific winning mare Missy Tata made a successful return to action following a lengthy absence when scoring at Fairyhouse in a beginners’ chase. 

The Astarabad mare holds no entries over fences for the Festival currently, but she features in the betting for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, and with a run under her belt she could be one to be interested in moving forward if returning to the smaller obstacles.

At Kelso on Thursday, Nicky Henderson’s We Have A Dream got back to winning ways with a bloodless win in the Morebattle Hurdle, appreciating the ease in class to run out a ready winner at the Borders venue. 

The Martaline gelding holds a Champion Hurdle entry, but while he was an impressive winner, he didn’t beat a whole lot in truth, and he remains an outsider for the day one feature. More surprising however was the defeat of Brian Ellison’s Gold Cup hope Definitely Red, who limbered up for his Cheltenham Festival tilt by facing off with Captain Redbeard in the Malcolm Jefferson Memorial Chase.

Already a dual-Grade Two winner this campaign, the Definite Article gelding was made to look pedestrian by his rival who ran out a two lengths’ winner over last season’s Gold Cup sixth. The defeat saw him pushed out markedly in the Gold Cup betting as a result where is a general 40/1 chance for the chasing Blue Riband.

Sandown’s Royal Artillery Gold Cup racecard on Friday took in the rearranged Grade Two Kingmaker Chase that had been scheduled to go to post as part of Warwick’s lost racecard .and the three-runner contest was a chance for Amy Murphy’s Kalashnikov to stamp his Arkle Chase credentials.

However, it didn’t go to plan for last terms’ Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up and he had no answer to the bold-jumping Glen Forsa who put his rivals to the sword with an impressive success to extend his winning sequence to three, and Mick Channon’s charge looks on course for a tilt at the Arkle Chase with bookmakers slashing his price to as short as 5/1 for that race.

The Arkle appears to be connections’ preferred target for the Mahler gelding, although he also holds a JLT Novice Chase entry. But now with wins to his name from 2m-3m, it will be interesting to see which way he goes.

Kalashnikov was bitterly disappointing in his clash with the Channon runner, with bookmakers pushing Amy Murphy’s charge out to 20/1 in places from his earlier 6/1 perch pre-race.

On the same card, Queenohearts showed plenty of tenacity to hold off rivals to win the Grade Two Jane Seymour Mares’ Novice Hurdle, in the process cementing her Festival credentials for the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, although a tilt at the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle remains a possibility for the Flemensfirth mare.

Saturday however saw plenty of market movers following a bumper afternoon with top-class racing across the country with Ascot picking up the Denman Chase and Betfair Chase from the abandoned Newbury fixture the previous weekend.

On a cracking afternoon at the Berkshire venue, Mister Malarkey cemented his claims for the National Hunt Chase with an impressive display, and the layers were quick to cut Robbie Power’s mount into a general 16/1 for the four-miler. 

Flat to the boards throughout, his rivals seemed to be going just a half-stride too quick for Colin Tizzard’s charge. But his slick jumping kept him competitive, and he stayed on stoutly at the business end to score a shade readily in the end.

Elsewhere on the card, Clan Des Obeaux registered a facile success against three rivals in the rearranged Denman Chase, cantering all over runner-up Terrefort to stake his Gold Cup claims. In truth, Paul Nicholls’ charge didn’t beat a whole lot, although the runner-up is a smart sort in his own right; it was a shadow of the line-up that might have featured at Newbury however.

But the manner of the win suggested there was even better to come, and bookmakers saw enough to shave his price into around 5/1 for the big one on Festival Friday.

Trainer Paul Nicholls landed a big-race Ascot double - part of eight winners on the day across the UK for the Ditcheat handler - when Cyrname posted a carbon-copy performance of his last win at Ascot when blitzing a high-class field of rivals to run away with the Ascot Chase.

The Nickname gelding set a new course record when posting an almost twenty lengths’ success over the likes of Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently, Grade One winner Fox Norton and stablemate Politologue, prompting some bookmakers to install him as favourite for the Ryanair Chase despite him not being a declared Cheltenham Festival runner.

All his best form has so far come on a flat, right-handed track; Cheltenham is as far away from that as one could get, so any Festival participation would have to be in doubt with trainer Paul Nicholls likely to resist the Cheltenham allure and instead target a big prize at Punchestown in April.

Waiting Patiently meanwhile is likely only to take his chance in the Ryanair Chase if the ground comes up soft enough for him, and trainer Ruth Jefferson was at pains to state her stable star might just have needed the run on ground that arguably may just have been on the quick side for the Flemensfirth gelding, and future plans will very much be ground-dependant.

Plans for Politologue at the Cheltenham Festival appear to be on the back burner following his Ascot Chase run, with owner John Hales suggesting post-race that his star could possibly undergo wind surgery and look to return at Aintree.

Meanwhile, in the rearranged Betfair Hurdle, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Al Dancer stretched his unbeaten sequence to four wins from four starts over hurdles with an impressive display that saw the Al Namix gelding shorten markedly in price for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

Scoring by almost four lengths in what is usually an otherwise typically competitive handicap, Twiston-Davies’ charge travelled strongly through the race and ran on well for the win. Bookmakers reacted by halving the odds available on the Dai Walters-owned gelding, with some posting him as new favourite for the race following his success at around 4/1.

Meanwhile, Quel Destin cemented his claims ahead of a possible tilt at the Triumph Hurdle when posting a six lengths’ victory at Haydock to win the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle and take his seasonal haul to five wins. 

His impressive win saw bookmakers shave prices available on Paul Nicholls’ progressive Muhtathir youngster to around 8/1 in some places from 14/1. Yanworth meanwhile blotted his copybook with a lacklustre run in the Rendlesham Hurdle, pulled up behind Shades Of Midnight who ran out an impressive winner of the three-miler.

Nicky Henderson’s charge remains in the betting for the Stayers’ Hurdle despite his poor effort, with William Hill posting the former dual-Grade One winner at 66/1 in their market for Thursday’s feature.

Over at Wincanton, Sceau Royal was turned over in his preparation run ahead of the Champion Chase when finding another Paul Nicholls winner too good in Grand Sancy who posted a determined win under Dan Skelton to claim the Grade Two Kingwell Hurdle.

Alan King’s charge was making his first start since finishing last of four behind Altior in the Tingle Creek Chase, and he features around the 20/1 mark for the Champion Chase. The winner meanwhile did his chances of a Cheltenham Festival tilt no harm, and the Diamond Boy gelding is a general 14/1 chance for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but as big as 25s for the Ballymore Hurdle.

Over in Ireland at Gowran Park on Saturday, Henry De Bromhead’s Monalee beat three rivals to win the Grade Two Red Mills Chase, and the Milan gelding appears firmly on track for a return to Cheltenham where the Ryanair Chase is his likely next target.

Always travelling comfortably and jumping slickly, the eight-year old had enough in reserve to hold off Anibale Fly, with the pair pulling clear of Edwulf and Killultagh Vic. Bookmakers saw enough to slash his price for the Thursday Grade one into a general 4/1 from 7s earlier.

Navan in Ireland on Sunday also saw Cross Country and Grand National winner Tiger Roll blitz rivals in the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle, leading to Gordon Elliott’s charge being shortened in the betting for both races following his four lengths’ defeat of dual-Ladbroke Hurdle winner Off You Go.

Always travelling well under Keith Donoghue, the Authorized gelding returned at 25/1 in the Navan feature, but there’ll be no such prices about the nine-year old come Cheltenham where h is now a best-priced even-money chance to defend his Cross Country crown; although with the Grand National weights already announced, there have been some rumblings on social media hinting at a possible Gold Cup tilt, which seems an unlikely target and he would require to be supplemented.

Rachael Blackmore, having steered Monalee to success on Saturday, added another big prize on Sunday when partnering Chris’s Dream to success in the Ten Up Chase, and a possible RSA Chase tilt could be on the agenda for Henry De Bromhead’s charge who doggedly fought off Champagne Classic to claim the spoils.

The Mahler gelding can be backed at around 20/1 for Wednesday’s Grade One; while Ucello Conti strengthened his Foxhunters Chase position when beating Coastal Tiep, and Gordon Elliott’s Martaline gelding moved to second-favourite in the betting for the amateur riders’ Gold Cup at a general 5/1.

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Eye on Cheltenham week seventeen - Latest Cheltenham Festival betting news following bumper week of racing

We bring you all the latest betting and developments in the ante-post markets ahead of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival after a huge week of racing across the UK and Ireland.

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