Cheltenham Festival: Update
Frank Monkhouse | 3 February 2017
Thistlecrack remains fav for Gold Cup
Antepost backers got a useful look at how things are shaping up for this year’s Cheltenham Festival, now little over a month away, with the trials taking place at the Gloucestershire track over the weekend.
Perhaps the biggest show of Saturday was the defeat of Thistlecrack by Many Clouds in the Grade Two trial Cotswold Chase. What was a thrilling contest ended in heartbreak as race-winner Many Clouds broke down shortly after passing the post and never recovered. It was a gutsy performance, typical of the great horse, but was to be his 12th and final race win.
Despite losing by the tightest of margins, a head being the official distance, and perhaps due to what happened to Many Clouds after the race, Thistlecrack – now 13 wins, two seconds and a third from 19 starts – remains favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Coral traders want to keep the Tizzard bill-topper close, and offer 6/4 on him living up to expectations.
Un De Sceaux shaping up nicely
All the talk on Saturday morning was about Un De Sceaux, and if he would show his class again and retain the rescheduled Grade One Clarence House Chase. The answer was yes, and quite impressively too as Mullins and Walsh joined forces to great effect again, getting the nine-year-old home a five-length winner over Uxizandre.
That victory added to his win in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December, seeing off Sire De Grugy on that occasion, and he is certainly making a name for himself in the run-up to this year’s festival. Expected to go in the Queen Mother Chase on the Wednesday, he’s 12/1 to make that effort a winning one, fourth in a market dominated by odds-on favourite Douvan.
Having a go in the Ryanair Chase is another option for Un De Sceaux, and he has now been marked as favourite for that contest. Punters in agreement can have 3/1 at the time of writing, and his nearest rival, Sizing John, is back at 6/1.
Defi Du Seuil hot favourite in Triumph Hurdle
Everyone and their dog expected Defi Du Seuil to win the opener on Saturday, the Grade Two Trial Juvenile Hurdle, with Barry Gerraghty’s mount going off at 1/5. He did exactly what was needed to keep his winning run going and now boasts a CV reading five runs – five wins.
That has caught the eye of those in the know on our trading floor and Philip Hobbs’ upstart is now jolly in the Triumph Hurdle. 4/1 goes as the current call on that one through us, and it’s surprising to see Charli Parcs back at 9/1. The latter didn’t go at the weekend, and punters seem suspicious.