Brian Healy looks back on the weekend’s horse racing action and picks out some of the big winners and losers and their effect on the Cheltenham Festival betting.
The weather took its’ toll again last week, robbing racing fans of several meetings which included two meetings on Saturday which might have had some bearing on a few Cheltenham Festival betting markets.
However there was still a few Festival clues to be had over the weekend from the meetings at Kempton, Fairyhouse, Fontwell and Naas where several possible Cheltenham contenders went to post and we take a look at some of the winners and losers from the weekend.
DOWNTOWN GETAWAY (Martin Pipe Hurdle)
Nicky Henderson’s charge hasn’t had his troubles to seek since moving to Nicky Henderson from Ireland and the seven-year old was making his first start in three months and only his fifth for the Seven Barrows trainer in Saturday’s opener at Kempton.
Making virtually all under Nico de Boinville the Getaway gelding made a mistake at the last to relinquish the lead; but he battled back gamely to get back up close home to register a neck victory.
The win saw his Cheltenham Festival betting odds contract from 33/1 to 14/1 for the Coral Cup; while he also holds an entry in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle where his odds for that race see him now feature at 12/1 from 20/1 previously.
WHO DARES WINS (Ultima Handicap Chase)
Alan King’s charge ground out victory in the Pendil Novices’ Chase, capitalising on the fall of Master Tommytucker and gamely holding off Southfield Stone to land the win.
Afterwards jockey Tom Cannon – who rode a treble on the Saturday card at Kempton – felt he was in front too long following the fall of Master Tommytucker; but it all came together in the end for him as he got back up once headed to land the win.
The Ultima Handicap Chase on day one of the Cheltenham Festival could prove his next stop where bookmakers shortened the Jeremy gelding into 16/1 from 20s following his Kempton win.
SOLO (Triumph Hurdle)
Paul Nicholls’ French import blew away his rivals to leap to the head of the betting for the Triumph Hurdle with a facile success in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle, prompting the Ditcheat handler to liken him to the yard’s top-class Master Minded.
Although weak in the market ahead of the contest, the Kapgarde gelding romped to an easy 13 lengths’ success over Fujimoto Flyer who had no answer to his rival who was making his first start for Nicholls having moved to Ditcheat from Guillame Macaire in France.
Also entered into the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival, he now spearheads the Cheltenham Festival betting for the Triumph Hurdle on the back of that bloodless win over a highly-regarded rival.
BUZZ (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)
Going into Saturday’s Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, Nicky Henderson’s Buzz had been considered something of a dark horse in some quarters for the Cheltenham Festival’s opening race on the back of impressive wins at Taunton and Doncaster prior to his Kempton assignment.
However the Motivator gelding failed to get competitive and was readily brushed aside into fourth behind the impressive Highway One O Two from the Chris Gordon camp. The winner doesn’t hold an entry at the Festival currently and may now pitch into handicap company for the Imperial Cup.
For Buzz however, his lacklustre run saw him hit 100/1 for the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
MISTER MALARKY (Ultima Handicap Chase)
Colin Tizzard’s Mister Malaraky produced an improved performance on ground more to his liking when winning the feature Betway Handicap Chase by two lengths from Grade One winner Black Corton.
A Grade Two winner as a novice, he didn’t disgrace himself in last season’s RSA Chase but runs this term had been underwhelming. However he posted his best run of the campaign with a gutsy display where he jumped well under Jonjo O’Neill to land the spoils and propel himself into the Cheltenham Festival betting reckoning for the Ultima Chase.
BURNING VICTORY (Triumph Hurdle)
Making her first start for Willie Mullins following a move from France the Nathaniel gelding ran out an impressive victor of a Grade Three contest on her first outing for the County Carlow handler.
In a race where Battle Of Wills was expected to stamp his passport into Friday’s Triumph Hurdle it was the Mullins runner instead who leapt to the fore despite being far from convincing in the jumping department. She had largely travelled well in the race and she found plenty at the business end to score a shade readily.
FERNY HOLLOW (Champion Bumper)
Willie Mullins’ Ferny Hollow all but booked his place in the Champion Bumper line-up with an impressive success in the closing bumper contest on the Fairyhouse Saturday card, readily coming clear of second placed On Eagles Wings to record a four lengths’ victory.
Second now in the Cheltenham Festival betting now where he sits behind stablemate Appreciate It, the well-regarded Westerner gelding had met with defeat on both previous starts in bumpers.
But the application of a hood appeared to perk him up as he ran out an easy winner and he’ll head to the Cheltenham Festival Wednesday finale with solid claims of a follow up.
WILLIAM HENRY (Coral Cup)
2019 Coral Cup winner could into his title defence on the crest of a wave having come from out of the clouds to win Sunday’s National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell.
Having looked beaten as pace-setters Thomas Darby and Quel Destin duelled up front and looked to have the race between them, the King’s Theatre gelding made relentless late progress despite the heavy ground to win going away.
He now has the option of the Coral Cup – which he won twelve months ago – or being kept to Graded company for a tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Thomas Darby might not have been at his best in the testing conditions and there’ll be other days for him although his Champion Hurdle hopes took a big blow with his defeat. Quel Destin meanwhile has an entry in the County Hurdle and could take up that engagement for Paul Nicholls.
BOB AND CO (Foxhunters’ Chase)
Bob And Co came out on top in the duel between the Paul Nicholls inmates and the pair had the race between them from some way out as they dropped their two rivals.
However it was the Dom Alco gelding who won a shade cosily over Alcala to strengthen his place in the line-up for the Foxhunters’ Chase with a ready success that was value for more than the one length margin.
Alcala did his chances of making the final line-up no harm at all with his performance and both could go to post for the Nicholls camp.