Christmas racing review: Cheltenham Festival market movers
David Metcalf | December 30, 2015
After a busy Christmas period of top-class action at Kempton, Leopardstown and Newbury, Coral take a look at some of the key performances and the impact they have had on the ante post markets for the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
Barters Hill looks all class in Challow Hurdle romp
Barters Hill looked pure class when stretching his unbeaten record to six with a wide margin victory in the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.
The Ben Pauling trained five-year-old, winner of a Grade 2 bumper at Aintree in April, was first off the bridle but responded well to pressure to storm clear and beat Politologue by 12 lengths.
It was a most taking performance, and Pauling is edging towards a crack at the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival with his stable star.
He said: “He will have an entry in the Neptune, as well as the Albert Bartlett, and if it came up soft, the Neptune might be enough of a test. I’m leaning towards the Albert Bartlett and I think it will take a good one to beat him.”
Barters Hill is now clear 7/2 favourite (from 7s) for the Albert Bartlett, and a 10/1 shot for the Neptune.
No More Heroes completes hat-trick in style
No More Heroes maintained his unbeaten record over fences with a stunning performance in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown and is now 3/1 favourite (from 4s) for the 2016 RSA Chase.
The Gordon Elliott trained gelding put in a spectacular round of jumping before pulling clear after the last to easily beat Rule The World by nine lengths.
It was a display of pure class that was impossible to knock, and winning jockey Bryan Cooper said that No More Heroes was as good as any he has ridden with regards to his jumping.
Elliott said that No More Heroes would be entered in the JLT, RSA and the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival, but the RSA looks the ideal and obvious race for the Gigginstown House Stud owned six-year-old.
Nichols Canyon flies high in Ryanair Hurdle
Nichols Canyon confirmed himself to be a leading Champion Hurdle contender when showing tremendous battling qualities to get the better of Identity Thief in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The Willie Mullins trained gelding looked beat when Identity Thief cruised into the lead approaching the last, but jockey Ruby Walsh threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Nichols Canyon and he rallied gamely on the run-in to get back up close home and win going away by two lengths.
It was a sixth Grade 1 success from just nine starts over hurdles for Nichols Canyon, and Mullins said: “His battling qualities and his hurdling qualities remind me of Hurricane Fly, and the size of him. He probably hasn’t the zip of Hurricane Fly – the speed – but he has his stamina and aggressiveness.”
Coral have eased Nichols Canyon to 6/1 (from 5s) for the 2016 Champion Hurdle, and trimmed Identity Thief to 16/1 (from 20s).
Don Poli delivers in Lexus Chase battle
Don Poli ended top Irish trainer Mullins’ long wait for a Lexus Chase triumph, as he held off First Lieutenant to win a thrilling renewal of the Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown.
The odds-on 4/6 favourite, an impressive winner of last season’s RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, was pushed all the way to the line but found plenty for Bryan Cooper’s urgings to score by 1/2 a length.
Although not impressive, Don Poli is the type of horse that only does enough to get the job done and clearly relishes a battle.
Those attributes will stand him in good stead in the Gold Cup, and the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding looks the ideal candidate for the 2016 renewal of chasing’s blue ribbon event.
Six-year-old Don Poli is currently Coral’s 5/1 joint-second favourite for the showpiece contest on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Sprinter Sacre blooms in Desert Orchid Chase
Sprinter Sacre continued his resurgence with a thrilling win over Sire De Grugy in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, and is now 4/1 second favourite (from 9/2) to recapture his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown.
The Nicky Henderson trained gelding, who won the Queen Mother in 2013, looked in trouble approaching the last but produced a spectacular leap and responded gamely under pressure to prevail by 3/4 of a length.
It was a fine effort, and showed that Sprinter Scare had battling qualities as well as a high cruising speed.
He may not be as good as he was in his pomp, but it was a display which showed that the horse dubbed “the Black Aeroplane” retained plenty of ability and would be a major player in the Queen Mother come next March.
Cue Card triumphs in cracking King George
Cue Card came came out on top in a titanic battle with Vautour to land the King George VI Chase at Kempton and is now 6/1 (from 10s) for the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Colin Tizzard’s stable star looked to be playing second fiddle up the home straight as Vautour travelled powerfully at the head of affairs, but the six-year-old responded in terrific style to the urgings of jockey Paddy Brennan and dug deep after a mistake at the last to get up in the final stride and score by a head.
It was fourth time lucky for Cue Card in the Grade 1 contest, and he will now head straight to the Gold Cup without another run.
Don Cossack crashed out of the contest two from home when staying on and looking to hold every chance, and Gordon Elliott’s gelding remains a 5/1 chance for the Gold Cup.
Faugheen back to his fabulous best
Faugheen looked back to his brilliant best when landing back-to-back successes in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, and is now odds-on 4/7 favourite with Coral to retain his Champion Hurdle Crown.
After suffering a shock first career defeat to stable companion Nichols Canyon on seasonal reappearance in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, the seven-year-old answered those that questioned him in impressive fashion.
After racing sweetly at the head of affairs under a confident Ruby Walsh, Faugheen flew the last two flights and quickly put the race to bed with an instant change of gear to win easing down by seven lengths from The New One.
Mullins said: “He did it well, did everything right and I’m very pleased with him. He jumped well. I don’t know where next, it could be straight to Cheltenham, as that would work for me. It was maybe tactics at Punchestown, as Ruby didn’t want to get into a battle.”
Douvan dazzles in Racing Post Novice Chase
Douvan is now odds-on for the 2016 Arkle following a facile success in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Only four went to post for the Grade 1 feature, but from flag fall there was only ever going to be one winner.
This Mullins five-year-old jumped fast and accurate for most of the contest, and despite a small mistake at the last cruised clear on the run-in to score by 18 lengths.
Douvan was eased to a walk near the line, and it was a devastating display of speed and power.
Having been available at 6/4 for the Arkle before the race, Coral cut him to even money but that was quickly snapped up and Douvan is now a rock solid 4/5 favourite for the 2m contest next March.
For more of our comprehensive Cheltenham coverage, check out Coral’s dedicated page on all things relating to Prestbury Park and the Festvial.