Eye On Cheltenham – Defi, Douvan and Saldier make waves in Festival markets as Champion Hurdle betting gets shaken up

We bring you the latest moves and developments in the betting for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, after a huge weekend of racing at Cheltenham and Punchestown.

The first Grade One for two-mile hurdlers hit our screens at Punchestown on Saturday, with Willie Mullins entering three of his finest hurdlers as he searched for a ninth Morgiana Hurdle victory. All eyes were on 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Klassical Dream, who carried an unbeaten record and an odds-on price tag into the race and Paul Townend looked perfectly placed to strike as the field turned for home.

In a surprising turn of events, Klassical Dream found very little when push came to shove and failed to pass long-time leader, Petit Mouchoir. Danny Mullins had gotten to work on Saldier as the field turned for home and his mount responded brilliantly to his rider’s urgings, passing his rivals after the final flight before securing a maiden Grade One success.

Saldier, who had missed the majority of last season after shattering his nose on his reappearance last autumn, was a 14/1 shot in the Champion Hurdle betting with Unibet prior to the Morgiana, but his shock victory led to a major shake-up at the head of the betting.

As former favourite Klassical Dream drifted out from 3s to 6/1, Saldier leapfrogged his stablemate, with Unibet handing him fresh quotes of 5/1. This leaves two-time Champion Hurdler, Buveur D’Air as the new ante-post favourite and he can cement his position at the head of the market by winning the Unibet Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle later this month.

Sunday’s main event at Cheltenham’s November Meeting was the Shloer Chase and it provided the returning Defi Du Seuil the chance to flex his considerable muscles. Philip Hobbs’ charge was one of the stars of last season, beating Lostintranslation to the JLT at Cheltenham and he proved he had more than enough two-mile speed by beating Politologue by a couple of lengths.

Douvan made a triumphant return to the track at Clonmel last week.

After impressing over two-and-a-half miles last season, the Ryanair Chase seems to be Defi Du Seuil’s most likely spring objective and Paddy Power cut Hobbs’ star into 5/1 favouritism. Sunday’s two-mile triumph brought the Champion Chase into place too, with Ladbrokes pulling Defi Du Seuil into 10s from 14/1 in the betting for day two’s Championship race.

Another big mover in the Ryanair market was the mighty Douvan, who returned from a two-year-long absence in fine style at Clonmel on Thursday. Willie Mullins’ two-time Festival winner was in with Monalee and Jett as he tackled a trip further than two miles for the first time, but proved he had more than enough stamina to see out the distance, cruising clear down the stretch to secure nine-length triumph.

Fitness doubts meant Douvan had been languishing around the 33/1 mark in the Ryanair betting with most bookmakers. However, after Thursday’s romp, Unibet cut Douvan into 8/1 for the Ryanair, while BetVictor slashed Mullins’ star into 25s from 66/1 in the betting for the 2020 Gold Cup.

The second returning star from Mullins’ yard to make the headlines this weekend was Faugheen, who made his novice chasing debut at the ripe-old age of 11 at Punchestown. Apart from one significant error at an open ditch, Faugheen jumped nicely over that two-and-a-half mile trip, powering clear in the final four furlongs to secure a comfortable victory.

Whether he will shape up into a genuine contender in a race like the JLT – for which Paddy Power slashed his odds from 40s to 20/1 – only time will tell. It was just wonderful to see “The Machine” back in full working order and anything Faugheen goes onto achieve at this stage of his career will be a bonus for Mullins and Rich Ricci.

Earlier on Sunday’s card at Cheltenham, Al Dancer and Getaway Trump locked horns again in the Arkle Trial. Both, however, were powerless to deny Put The Kettle On, as Henry De Bromhead’s raider made all to secure victory under Aidan Coleman. Put The Kettle On entered the Arkle betting at 20/1 with Ladbrokes, while both Al Dancer and Getaway Trump drifted out to 16s.

Thyme Hill clears the last en-route to winning again at Cheltenham.

Thyme Hill opened the November Meeting with his second Grade Two success of the season in the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle. BetVictor cut Philip Hobbs’ youngster into 12/1 for the Ballymore on the back of that victory, while Ladbrokes made Thyme Hill their new 8/1 favourite for the three-mile Albert Bartlett.

Wholestone earned a fresh price of 25/1 in Paddy Power’s betting for the RSA after securing an impressive victory in a three-mile Novices’ Chase. Allmankind made all to win the Prestige Juvenile Hurdle on Saturday and Dan Skelton’s youngster was cut into 16/1 to win the Triumph Hurdle with BetVictor, with Hang In There entering the Supreme betting on 25/1 with Unibet after winning the Sharps Novices’ Hurdle.

Earlier in the week, Brewin’upastorm earned quotes of 20/1 with Ladbrokes to win the JLT after a second convincing victory over fences. Good Boy Bobby, who pushed Brewin’upastorm all the way at Carlisle last month, got off the mark over the larger obstacles at Wetherby, forcing Unibet to cut Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge into 20/1 to win the Arkle.

There were plenty more Cheltenham Festival developments over in Ireland during the week too, the most significant of those coming on Sunday, as Gordon Elliott’s Malone Road was ruled out for the entire season. Stablemate Envoi Allen was cut into 6/1 favouritism for the Supreme by BetVictor as a result – while also remaining at the head of the betting for the Ballymore – with Abacadabras also coming into 12/1 for the Supreme after Malone Road removed from the betting.

Battleoverdoyen extended his unbeaten record over fences into a second race after winning the Florida Pearl on Sunday, leading to Paddy Power cutting Elliott’s charge into 8s from 12/1 in the RSA betting. Notebook came out on top in the Grade Two Novices’ Chase at Punchestown on Saturday, earning a new price of 20/1 in Unibet’s Arkle market.

Willie Mullins’ Blue Sari could only manage a narrow victory, despite carrying a very short price to post, on his first start over hurdles. It was enough to prompt Unibet into handing last year’s Champion Bumper winner quotes of 16/1 to win the Ballymore and 20s in the Albert Bartlett market.

Front View and Midnight Run secured impressive maiden hurdle victory for Joseph O’Brien on Sunday. Front View was cut into 20/1 by Unibet to win the Supreme, while Midnight Run received quotes of 16/1 and 14/1 in the respective markets with Ladbrokes for the Ballymore and the Albert Bartlett.

Yanworth made a nice impression on his first start in a Cross Country for new trainer Enda Bolger, and was cut into 6/1 from 25s with Paddy Power William Hill William Hillto win the corresponding race at the Festival on the back of his Punchestown success. Another eye-catcher from earlier in the week was Henry De Bromhead’s Honeysuckle, who established herself as the second-favourite for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham following a devastating ten-length triumph on her return to the track at Fairyhouse.