Eye on Cheltenham – Apple’s Jade slides down all Festival markets after surprising flop at Navan

We run through the major market movers in the ante-post Cheltenham Festival betting, after a busy weekend of racing culminated with major meetings at Wincanton, Sandown, and Ireland on Sunday 10th November.

The two previous campaigns, Apple’s Jade has run roughshod through the competition at home in Ireland during the Autumn and Winter months, collecting five Grade One honor along the way. The Lismullen Hurdle was Apple’s Jade’s starting point in 2017 and 2018 and Gordon Elliott’s mare went into Sunday’s renewal as the 1/4 favorite to secure a hat-trick in that Grade Two.

Poor performances during Festival season hadn’t stopped Apple’s Jade trouncing her rivals in the Lismullen Hurdle in either of the two previous seasons. However, it seems those losing efforts at Cheltenham and Aintree back in the spring have taken their toll this time around.

Gordon Elliott’s favorite didn’t have the same sparkle she usually displays during the first half of the season. The favorite was picked off at the front of the field by Bacardys with two hurdles to jump and succumbed to defeat quickly, trailing over the line some nine-lengths behind the winner.

As a result, Apple’s Jade has slid down the betting for three prestigious Grade Ones at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. Unibet goes 33/1 from 20s on Apple’s Jade in both the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle, while also pushing Elliott’s mare out from 7s to 9/1 in the betting for the Mares’ Hurdle, which now seems the most likely Cheltenham objective.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Gordon Elliott’s over the weekend, however, as two of his top novices made winning starts to live over hurdles. Abracadabra won nicely over two miles at Navan on Sunday, leading to Ladbrokes cutting his price from 25s to 12/1 in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Andy Dufresne was even more impressive in the two-and-a-half-mile maiden later in the afternoon, cursing to an effortless ten-length triumph. He too was cut into 10/1 for the Supreme by Unibet. The three-mile Albert Bartlett looks his most suitable assignment though, and Unibet now lists Andy Dufresne as the new 10/1 ante-post favorite for that Grade One on Gold Cup day.

Speaking of the Gold Cup, Nicky Henderson’s leading contender for this year’s main event at Cheltenham made his first outing of the new campaign at Sandown on Sunday. Santini was expected to brush aside three inferior rivals with ease in the three-mile Intermediate Chase, but the 2019 RSA runner-up made hard work of the task at hand, beating 144-rated Now McGinty by just a head.

Santini is sure to come on from that reappearance on heavy ground and Ladbrokes were impressed enough to cut Henderson’s charge in from 10s to 8/1 to triumph in the 2020 Gold Cup. Bet365, on the other hand, was less than convinced, pushing Santini out from 8s to 10/1.

Two Cheltenham Festival hopefuls headlined the action at Wincanton on Saturday, but their performances also received mixed reviews from the major bookmakers. Reserve Tank secured a comfortable victory in the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase before Fussil Raffles outfought Grand Sancy to secure a narrow triumph in the Elite Hurdle.

Unibet cut Reserve Tank into 6/1 from 10s to win the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, while also handing Fussil Raffles a fresh price of 10/1 from 14s in the Champion Hurdle betting. Meanwhile, Betfair remained unmoved in the betting with both, listing Reserve Tank as a 10/1 shot in the JLT and Fussil Raffles as a 16/1 outsider in Tuesday’s Championship race.

Nicky Henderson was much more impressed with Champ’s performance at Newbury this week, as his Grade One-winning hurdler jumped nicely on his way to a comfortable triumph over two-and-a-half miles. The RSA Novices’ Chase will be his end-of-season goal and Champ was pushed into solo-favoritism for that three-mile contest, with Unibet going as short as 4/1.

Two-time Festival runner-up, Melon made his first start over fences at Navan on Sunday, but Willie Mullins’ charge was upstaged by Fakir D’Oudairies, who hacked up on his chasing debut to defeat his older rival by three lengths. Joseph O’Brien’s four-year-old was cut into 8/1 second-favoritism for the Arkle by Paddy Power, while also earning fresh quotes of 16/1 to win the JLT.

Cilaos Emery proved he was a force to be reckoned with in the two-mile chasing division with a convincing win this weekend, earning fresh quotes of 9/1 in the Champion Chase betting with bet365. The following afternoon, Ballyoisin upset market leaders Duc Des Genievres and A Plus Tard to win the Fortria Chase, forcing bet365 to push Duc Des Genievres out to 25/1 in the Champion Chase betting, with A Plus Tard drifting further out to a new price of 33/1.