Eye On Cheltenham – Defi Du Seuil the new Champion Chase favourite after Clarence House romp
We take a look through the big developments and market movers in the 2020 Cheltenham Festival betting, after a week of action which features big races at Ascot, Haydock and Thurles on Sunday 19th January.
Eye On Cheltenham Week 12
Punters arrived as Ascot anticipating another seismic showdown between Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux, as two of chasing’s superstars locked horns again in the Clarence House Chase. Philip Hobbs’ charge edged out his rival in the Tingle Creek at Sandown before Christmas, but the bookmakers couldn’t separate Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux before the off, with both going off as 11/10 joint-favourites.
Willie Mullins front-running raider set a fairly sedate pace, with Defi Du Seuil looking a little uncomfortable in-behind, jumping out to his left on a couple of occasions. Yet, when Barry Geraghty set his mount free entering the home straight, Defi Du Seuil took off, bolting clear after the final flight to win without really breaking a sweat.
Bookmakers were quick to react following the Clarence House, with Unibet installing Defi Du Seuil as the new 2/1 favourite for the Champion Chase, ahead of Altior and Chacun Pour Soi. Despite an under-par performance back in second, Un De Sceaux saw his Ryanair odds clipped by Unibet, who cut the former winner in from 25s to 16/1.
The opening ITV race of the day saw Magic Of Light retain her Warfield Hurdle crown, forcing Paddy Power to cut her odds in the Mares’ Hurdle in from 25s to 16/1. Goshen caught the eye again when romping to victory in the opening Juvenile Hurdle, a performance which saw his Triumph Hurdle price cut in from 8s to 16/1.
Thomas Darby ground out an impressive victory on his return to hurdling at Ascot, with many claiming he could be a dark-horse for the Champion Hurdle on the back of that triumph. Despite the likes of Paddy Power handing last year’s Supreme runner-up fresh quotes of 25/1 in the Champion Hurdle betting, Olly Murphy put a dampener on any excitement, stating the team would probably skip Cheltenham and target the Aintree Hurdle.
All eyes were on Pentland Hills up at Haydock, as Nicky Henderson’s charge looked to get his Champion Hurdle bid back on track. Last year’s Triumph winner travelled beautifully throughout The New One Hurdle, and victory looked inevitable once he hit the front. In a dramatic turn of events, the leader began to tire on the long run to the line, allowing the fast-finishing Ballyandy to sneak home and pip Pentland Hills to the post.
A second defeat of the season wasn’t particularly damaging to Pentland Hills’ Champion Hurdle chances, with Unibet remaining unmoved on a price of 7/1. Ballyandy saw his Cheltenham Festival odds halve on the back of that narrow win at Haydock, with Unibet cutting him in from 40s to 20/1.
Stolen Silver had earlier produced a similar performance under Sam Twiston-Davies, staying on to snatch victory away from Edwardstone in the Rossington Main. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ novice, who could head to the Betfair Hurdle next, came in from 40s to 16/1 in the Supreme betting, with beaten favourite Edwardstone dropping back from 12/1 to 16s.
Sam Brown made it two-from-two over fences in impressive fashion, a result which saw William Hill enter Anthony Honeyball’s eight-year-old into the Marsh Novices’ Chase betting on 25/1. Vintage Clouds ended his long winless run in excellent style, winning the Peter Marsh by a streak, and William Hill cut Sue Smith’s charge in from 50s to 20/1 to win the Ultima Handicap Chase.
Minella Indo was the star attraction at Navan on Saturday, and Henry De Bromhead’s dual-Grade One-winning hurdler did just enough to claim victory on his second start over fences. Despite having to work harder than expected to hold off Captain Cj, Ladbrokes cut Minella Indo into 6/1 from 8s in the RSA betting. Later, Eskylane bolted up in the card-closing bumper, with Ladbrokes handing Gordon Elliott’s youngster fresh quotes of 20/1 in the Champion Bumper betting.
On Sunday, Real Steel produced an excellent performance to lower the colours of stablemate, Footpad in the Grade Two feature at Thurles. While Footpad drifted in the betting for both the Ryanair and the Champion Chase, Real Steel moved in the opposite direction, with many bookies going as short as 8/1 to win the Ryanair.
Monkfish made light of the treacherous ground conditions to win a 22-furlong Novices’ Hurdle, forcing Ladbrokes to slash his odds in from 16s to 8/1 to win the Albert Bartlett. Elimay then hacked up to win a two-and-a-half mile Mares’ Novices’ Chase, leading to William Hill handing Willie Mullins’ charge fresh quotes of 20/1 to win the Marsh Chase.
Two big midweek movers to bring you, starting with Shishkin, who was slashed in from 25s to 7/1 in the Supreme betting after cruising to victory at Newbury. Willie Mullins then scored with his first ever runner at Market Rasen the following day, with the previously unraced Panic Attack securing a bloodless triumph in a Listed Mares’ Bumper, a performance which saw Paddy Power install Panic Attack as their 10/1 favourite for the Champion Bumper.