Eye on Cheltenham – Round up of all the major Festival movers over Christmas and New Year

Nicky Henderson's Epatante rates a value play in her bid to land a second Champion Hurdle.Nicky Henderson's Epatante rates a value play in her bid to land a second Champion Hurdle.

We take a look through each of the races at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, highlighting the horses who made big moves in each of the markets over the Christmas and New Year period.

Wow, what a fantastic few weeks we’ve enjoyed in the horse racing world! Kempton and Leopardstown delivered their usual levels of drama and excitement, while British fans also enjoyed some superb racing at Chepstow, Newbury and Cheltenham during the Festive period.

With so much to catch up on, I’ve tweaked the usual format of my Eye On Cheltenham articles. Instead of my standard recap, I’ll take a look though the markets for the major races at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, picking out the horses who’ve made waves – whether positive or negative – over the past few weeks.

2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Clan Des Obeaux produced a stunning performance to lower the colours of Cyrname and Lostintranslation at Kempton, surging clear down the home straight to successfully retain his King George crown. Paul Nicholls’ charge was then backed in to 8/1 to win the Gold Cup with William Hill, with Lostintranslation drifting out to 8s from 6/1, following a bizarre performance.

Over in Ireland, it was Delta Work who triumphed in the Savills Chase, sneaking home to snatch victory in a thrilling blanket finish. Gordon Elliott’s winner came into 10/1 with Paddy Power following that Grade One triumph. Beaten-favourite Kemboy remains a 6/1 shot with Ladbrokes, following a pleasing reappearance, while Presenting Percy and Monalee came into 10/1 and 25/1 respectively with William Hill.

Reigning Cheltenham king, Al Boum Photo hacked up on his return to action at Tramore on New Years’ Day. Willie Mullins decided to go down the same path with his charge as he did last season, instead of Grade One tilts at Kempton or Leopardstown, and William Hill were quick to make Al Boum Photo their new 5/1 favourite to retain his title in 2020.

Delta Work (near) comes from a long way back to win the Savills Chase.

2020 Champion Hurdle

Epatante pierced the Champion Hurdle fog with a superb display in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, bolting up to beat Silver Streak by just over five lengths. Nicky Henderson’s mare shot straight to the head of the Champion Hurdle betting following that victory, with race-sponsors Unibet quoting a top price of 11/4.

Another lack-lustre display from former-favourite, Klassical Dream saw Willie Mullins’ Supreme winner drop back to 10/1 with Unibet. With the market-leader languishing out the back of the field, stablemate Sharjah scooted to a second successive victory in the Matheson Hurdle, earning himself fresh quotes of 11/1 in Unibet’s Champion Hurdle betting.

Envoi Allen is an interesting figure in the Champion Hurdle market. Unibet list Gordon Elliott’s youngster at 6/1 to win Tuesday’s opening Championship race – despite Elliott stating it would be unlikely that he would pitch his all-conquering novice into open company at the Festival – with other firms quoting odds around the 12/1, 14/1 mark.

2020 Champion Chase

All eyes were on the returning Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, with most expecting Willie Mullins’ chaser to establish himself as the firm Champion Chase favourite. Yet, it was Henry De Bromhead’s A Plus Tard who grasped the bragging rights, drawing clear of the 8/15 favourite after the last following a fantastic round of jumping.

A Plus Tard was subsequently slashed in the 2020 Queen Mother betting, with Ladbrokes going 8/1 from their original 16/1 price. Despite suffering his first defeat for Willie Mullins, Chacun Pour Soi remains a 4/1 shot with Ladbrokes, who also decided to clip Tingle Creek winner Defi Du Seuil in from 5/1 to 4s following that dramatic race at Leopardstown.

A Plus Tard (second right) edges out Chacun Pour Soi (right) at Leopardstown.

2020 Stayers’ Hurdle

Apple’s Jade bounced back to top form with a superb victory in the Christmas Hurdle, extended her unbeaten record around Leopardstown into a fourth race with a brilliant front-running display. Paddy Power cut Apple’s Jade into 14s from 33/1 to win the Stayers’ following that display, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the former Festival winner turn up in the three-miler, instead of another showdown with Benie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Paisley Park has shortened a little at the head of the Stayers’ betting, even though he was pulled out of the Marsh Hurdle just before Christmas, with Paddy Power now offering a best price of 6/4. With the hot-favourite out of the picture, The Worlds End got the better of L’Ami Serge to score in that Grade One at Ascot, earning himself fresh quotes of 20/1 with Paddy Power in Cheltenham’s oldest Championship race.

2020 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Abacadabras established himself as the 4/1 favourite to win the Supreme, after a solid victory in a two-mile Grade One at Leopardstown. Stablemate Envoi Allen, who won the Lawlor’s Of Naas over two-and-a-half miles on Sunday, remains a possibility for the Supreme, but drifted out to 7/1 with Paddy Power, who obviously think Elliott’s star will head for the Ballymore.

Fiddlerontheroof produced a commanding display to win the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, forcing Ladbrokes to cut his price in the Supreme in from 20s to 7/1. Edwardstone, who hasn’t run since beating Fiddlerontheroof, was subsequently cut into 14/1 in the Supreme betting by Ladbrokes. Unexcepted, on the other hand, drifted out from 8s to 16/1, after suffering a lengthy defeat at the heads of Easywork at Limerick on Boxing Day.

Notebook leaps the last at Leopardstown.

2020 Arkle Novices’ Chase

Notebook bounded to the top of the Arkle standings, after defeating Fakir D’Oudairies and Laurina in a Grade One at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. Rachael Blackmore’s mount is now the 9/2 market leader with William Hill, with Fakir D’Oudairies also coming into 5/1 on the back of that strong second.

Laurina had topped the Arkle betting before that race, but Willie Mullins’ mare drifted right out to 25/1 with Paddy Power after throwing in a shocking performance. Melon and Cash Back earned quotes of 14/1 after securing victories of their own over Christmas, with Global Citizen coming into 14/1 with Ladbrokes after winning a weak renewal of the Wayward Lad at Kempton.

2020 Mares’ Hurdle

Neither Honeysuckle nor Benie Des Dieux ran over Christmas, and remain 7/4 joint-favourite with Paddy Power. Apple’s Jade was cut in from 12s to 5/1 with William Hill following her Leopardstown triumph, while reigning Mares’ Hurdle winner, Roksana was clipped into 10/1 by Paddy Power following a fine second to Summerville Boy in the Relkeel Hurdle.

2020 National Hunt Chase

Champagne Classic lost nothing in defeat to stablemate, Battleoverdoyen in a depleted Neville Hotels at Leopardstown, going down by just a couple of lengths. Gordon Elliott has earmarked this Grade Two for the former Martin Pipe winner, and Ladbrokes were quick to cut Champagne Classic into 6/1 favouritism following that fine second in Grade One company.

Carefully Selected was pulled into 6s from 8/1 by Paddy Power, despite being withdrawn from the Neville Hotels late on account of the ground. Danny Whizzbang was also clipped into 14/1 from 20s by Paddy Power, following his third-place finish in the three-mile Kauto Star.

Envoi Allen made it three-from-three over hurdles at Naas.

2020 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Envoi Allen proved two-and-a-half miles was no problem at all at Naas this weekend, staying on gamely to win the Grade One Lawlor’s Of Naas by a couple of lengths. On that back of that triumph, Envoi Allen drifted in the betting for both the Supreme and the Champion Hurdle, and was installed by Unibet as the new 11/8 favourite to win the Ballymore at Cheltenham.

Easywork is the only other runner sitting on a single-figure price with Paddy Power, having come into 9/1 following that sparkling victory over Unexcepted at Limerick. Colin Tizzard’s duo of The Big Breakaway and Fiddlerontheroof can be found at 14/1, having both impressed over Christmas, with Challow Hurdle winner, Thyme Hill a 10/1 shot with Paddy Power.

2020 RSA Novices’ Chase

Champ suffered his first defeat over fences at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, falling at the second-last flight in the Dipper when seemingly cruising to victory. Bookmakers remained unmoved following that fall, and Nicky Henderson’s star remains the 3/1 favourite with William Hill, ahead of Minella Indo, who’s come into 7/1 despite not running over Christmas.

Battleoverdoyen was clipped into 7/1 by William Hill, after holding off Champagne Classic to win the Neville Hotels. Slate House announced himself as a genuine RSA contender with a fine, battling victory in the Kauto Star at Kempton too, forcing most bookies to cut Colin Tizzard’s charge into 12/1.

2020 Champion Bumper

Erik Bloodaxe got the better of Gigginstown stablemate, Wide Receiver in a competitive bumper at Leopardstown, pulling clear in the closing stages to win fairly comfortably. Joseph O’Brien’s five-year-old was instantly installed as the 8/1 favourite for the Champion Bumper with William Hill, ahead of Israel Champ and Appreciate It, who secured victories of their own at Ascot and Leopardstown respectively.

Faugheen proved he had plenty of ability over fences by defeating Samcro at Limerick.

2020 Marsh Novices’ Chase

There were scenes of utter jubilation at Limerick on Boxing Day, as “The Machine” Faugheen rolled back the years to beat Samcro in the Grade One Novices’ Chase. Willie Mullins’ star fended off his younger rival to secure an impressive victory, and shot straight to the head of the Marsh Novices’ Chase (Formely JLT) betting, with Unibet quoting a top-price of 9/1.

Following that surprise 10-length defeat, Samcro drifted out to 12/1 with Unibet. Champ and Fakir D’Oudairies can be found at 10/1, with Mister Fisher, Black Op and Slate House sitting just behind Samcro on 14/1.

2020 Ryanair Chase

While also shooting up Champion Chase betting, A Plus Tard was cut into 6/1 across the boards to win the Ryanair at Cheltenham. Henry De Bromhead’s six-year-old now sits alongside Min and Defi Du Seuil as the joint-favourite in that Grade One with Paddy Power, with Footpad and Cyrname coming into 8/1 and 10/1 respectively, after decent runs in the King George.

2020 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Marie’s Rock bolted into Cheltenham Festival contention over Christmas, powering to an eight-length victory in a Listed race at Taunton. Nicky Henderson’s youngster was then cut into 7/1 by Ladbrokes and now sits behind only Willie Mullins’ duo of Dolcita and Lamarckise at the top of the market. Silver Forever was also clipped into 14/1 from 20s, after comfortably beaten her elders over two-and-a-half miles at Sandown.

Allmankind bolts up to win his first Grade One at Chepstow.

2020 Triumph Hurdle

Allmankind became Dan Skelton’s second Grade One winner at Chepstow just after Christmas, as he powered clear of Cerberus to secure a pillar-to-post victory in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle. Unibet now list Allmankind as the 6/1 joint-favourite to win the Triumph Hurdle, alongside Aspire Tower, who powered to a convincing 18-length triumph in the Frank Knight Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.

2020 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Thyme Hill wasn’t at his best in the Challow Hurdle, but Philip Hobbs’ charge was still classy enough to get up after the last and secure his first Grade One victory. Stepping up to three miles should be no problem at all for this powerful young horse, and William Hill were quick to cut Thyme Hill into 5/1 favouritism for the Albert Bartlett.

Fury Road survived an error at the final flight to claim victory in the three-mile Grade Two at Limerick, a performance which earned fresh quotes of 8/1 in the Albert Bartlett betting with Paddy Power. This Grade One also looks a possibility for The Big Breakaway, and he can be found at a best price of 12/1 with William Hill.