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Cheltenham Festival 2015 movers and shakers

There were more Cheltenham Festival clues in a busy weekend of top class action with Balder Succes winning impressively at Ascot to book his ticket for the Ryanair Chase and Champagne Fever warming up in fine style for a fourth visit with a smooth success at Gowran Park.

Here’s my round-up of the latest movers and shakers for the four-day spectacular which gets underway on Tuesday, March 10th:

Balder Succes:Booked his ticket for the Ryanair Chase when putting in a career-best peformance to account for some useful rivals in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase. The Alan King trained seven-year-old seemed to relish the step up to 2m 5f and after jumping well took up the running four from home before staying on strongly to beat Ma Filleule by 3 1/4 lengths. Connections decided to bypass last year’s Festival in favour of Punchestown, but King said a crack at the Ryanair on Thursday, March 12th, was now firmly on the agenda. Judged on the manner of his latest success Balder Success has to be a big player, but a concern has to be that he has failed to complete in three previous visits to the track – twice over hurdles and once over fences.
Coral latest odds: Ryanair Chase 6/1 (from 12s)

Champagne Fever: Showed that a previous fall had left no lasting effects when jumping brilliantly to run out a smooth winner of the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park. The Willie Mullins trained grey coasted to a 4 1/2 length success over Texas Jack, with jockey Paul Townend hardly having to move a muscle. It was the perfect confidence booster for the eight-year-old who has a superb record at the Festival having won the champion bumper and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle before finishing runner-up in last year’s Arkle. Hold entries in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase, and connections will decide nearer the time as to which option he will take up.
Coral latest odds: Queen Mother Champion Chase 11/2 from (6s(), Ryanair Chase 10/1 (from 12s)

Dedigout: Put himself in the World Hurdle picture when running out the convincing winner of the Boyne Hurdle at Navan.The Tony Martin trained gelding looked in control when Briar Hill came to grief at the final flight in the Grade 2 contest, and only had to be driven out by jockey Bryan Cooper to beat Zaidpour by 2 1/2 lengths. The nine-year-old had previously beaten Monksland in another Grade 2 contest at Gowran Park and seems to be progressing with each outing. His trainer has stressed that Dedigout will not be risked on ground any quicker than yielding, but if going is soft at Cheltenham he would have to be considered an each-way player in what looks a wide open contest.
Coral latest odds: World Hurdle 16/1 (from 50s)

Very Wood: Bounced back to form in no uncertain fashion with a 4 1/2 length success over the well-regarded Noble Emperor in the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan to book a return visit to the Festival. The Noel Meade trained six-year-old, who won last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, jumped and travelled well throughout the 3m contest before taking up the running two from home and pulling readily clear. Meade believes that Very Wood will be seen to even better effect on good ground, and is favouring a crack at the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Festival with the Gigginstown House Stud owned gelding who also holds an entry in the RSA at next month’s four-day extravaganza.
Coral latest odds: National Hunt Chase 10/1 (from 16s), RSA Chase 20/1 (from 33s)