Eye on Cheltenham – Frodon backed for Ryanair repeat as Andy Dufresne bounces back into Festival contention

We take a look through all the major movers and developments in the betting for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, after this week’s racing culminated with Kempton, Warwick and Punchestown on Sunday 12th January.

A fairly quiet week on the Cheltenham Festival developments front, but there were still a few important moves to report. We’ll start off with Frodon, who returned to top form in resounding fashion at Kempton, defeating Keeper Hill and Top Notch in the Silviniaco Conti Chase with an excellent front-running display.

Limp performances in the Old Roan and the Betfair Chase had seen the reigning Ryanair winner slip down to 16/1 with some firms in the Festival betting. After his sparkling victory at Kempton on Saturday though, Frodon shortened for the Ryanair across the boards, with William Hill going as short as 6/1 joint-second favouritism.

Two For Gold (right) gets up to beat Hold The Note (left) at Warwick.

Elsewhere on Saturday, there were a couple of decent Graded races to take in at Warwick. The first of which was the Hampton Novices’ Chase, which saw Two For Gold preserve his unbeaten record over fences with a hard-fought victory over Hold The Note. While Two For Gold had his odds for the National Hunt Chase cut from 40s into 12/1 with Paddy Power, Hold The Note was installed as the new 12/1 favourite for the Close Brothers’ Handicap – a race his trainer Mick Channon won with Mister Whitaker two years ago.

Mossy Fen then got up under the shadow of the post to beat Décor Irlandais and Shan Blue in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge looked beaten turning for home, but rallied gamely under pressure to secure a narrow victory. The Leamington may be seen as a key trial for the Ballymore, but Mossy Fen looked a guaranteed stayer of three-mile on Saturday, so it was no surprise to see Twiston-Davies’ novice cut from 33s into 20/1 for the Albert Bartlett by Unibet.

Never Adapt got off the mark for Nicky Henderson in the card-closing Handicap Hurdle at Kempton, earning herself fresh quotes of 14/1 for the County Hurdle with Unibet following a career-best display. Over in Ireland, Annamix proved himself a chaser to follow with a resounding triumph on his first start over the larger obstacles, forcing Coral to cut Willie Mullins’ charge into 20/1 for the Arkle.

Another Willie Mullins chaser to impress with weekend was Carefully Selected, who comfortably saw off City Island to win the two-and-a-half-mile Killiney Novices’ Chase at Punchestown on Sunday. Following that 24-length demolition, Mullins stated the National Hunt Chase would be right up Carefully Selected’s street – should he qualify for the race between now and Cheltenham – causing William Hill to cut the former Champion Bumper runner-up into 5/1 favouritism for the former four-miler.

Andy Dufresne (right) battles back to beat Captain Guinness in the Moscow Flyer.

Sunday’s feature at Punchestown provided Andy Dufresne with a shot at redemption in the Moscow Flyer, having fallen to a surprise defeat in the Navan Novices’ Hurdle before Christmas. On his first start over two miles, Gordon Elliott’s charge was backed into 8/15 favouritism, but was forced to work hard for his victory by the tenacious Captain Guinness, who only relinquished the lead in the strides before the line.

On that back of that three-quarter length success, Andy Dufresne was cut into 10/1 for both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ballymore by Ladbrokes, whilst remaining a 16/1 shot for the Albert Bartlett. Captain Guinness also impressed enough to see his Festival odds shorten, with Coral now listing Henry De Bromhead’s five-year-old as a 16/1 shot for the Supreme.

At Thurles on Thursday, Ard Abhainn secured a comfortable victory in a Listed Hurdle for first-season mares. Gordon Elliott’s youngster was cut into 16/1 to win the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle by Paddy Power, with Heaven Help Us – who came into the race having followed Abacadabras home in a Grade One over Christmas – drifting out to 25s having finished a well-beaten third.

There was also a notable performance from Mick Pastor earlier in the week at Ludlow. Paul Nicholls’ youngster was extremely fresh on his stable debut at Cheltenham’s November Meeting, but looked much more composed as he bolted up in a Juvenile Hurdle on Wednesday, earning himself fresh quotes in Unibet’s market for the Triumph Hurdle.