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Short-priced favourites abound

Short-priced favourites abound

Cheltenham markets start to get very interesting

Michael Duffy

THE Champion Hurdle picture was muddied further over the weekend with Newmill putting a few lacklustre efforts behind him to firmly put Macs Joy and Harchibald in their place. Straw Bear moved up to fourth favourite with an authoritative defeat of Afsoun and all this means that three horses – Detroit City, Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace – are now well clear at the top of the market.
You can now have some fancy prices about a couple of the challengers and for me the one who is most definitely each way value at present it Iktitaf. He is generally 16/1 at the moment and that is too big when you consider he firmly put Brave Inca in his place twice earlier in the season. The ground at the moment is likely to be Good to Soft for the festival and that won’t inconvenience him, all but one of his career victories have come when he has been able to get his toe in. There was something clearly wrong last time out and he has to be excused the run, so provided he strips fit on the day, 16/1 is clearly value at present.
It looks like we could have another short-priced favourite for one of the bigger races at Cheltenham as Monet’s Garden looks certain to go for the Ryanair Chase now after Saturday’s impressive display.
Cashmans of Cork have now priced up 14 races for the Cheltenham festival and amazingly if we leave out the two traditionally wide open betting heats, the Bumper and the Triumph, the longest priced favourite is Amaretto Rose in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at just 7/2. The value has most certainly gone for most of the hot-pots and the layers are currently running scared of the likes of Denman, Aran Concerto, Well Chief and Wichita Lineman. The upside of this is that you can get some real value on good horses who have every chance of being placed and give you a good return even if the hot-pot comes home on the bridle. Four examples of this are Ringaroses (12/1), Lennon (10/1), Dom D’Orgreval (12/1) and Labelthou (8/1).
This weekend is pretty quiet in comparison to the past couple of frantic Saturdays but one to have a look at on Thursday is Paul Nicholls’ Ornais, who won easily on his first run over hurdles. He’s looking to book his ticket to Cheltenham with victory at Huntingdon and he should account for the talented My Turn Now.
At Sandown on Friday, the Durkan Group Novice Chase looks wide open. Good Spirit and All Star set the standard but Fast Forward looks to  be going the right way and can follow up last week’s win for Venetia Williams. On the same card, watch out for Jonjo O’Neill’s Isn’t that Lucky, who looked a smart sort when hacking up on his debut at Fontwell and he should follow up here on the way to a possible stab at the Champion Bumper.
On Saturday, the Pendil Novice Chase at Kempton has been won by some good horses in recent years. Ungaro has been priced up at 7/2 by Cashmans but he slipped the field last time and may be opposable here over four furlongs shorter. I’m siding with Faasel who seemed to take to fences well on his debut and looks like a classy hurdler who could progress over the bigger obstacles.
The Racing Post Chase betting market is all about Lucifer Bleu at the moment who gets into the race on a featherweight for David Pipe. This is an average looking renewal compared to other years and a chance is taken on Gallant Approach, who has been running consistently but is still a very unexposed sort for Charlie Egerton. Celtic Son could run a big race at a decent price.
The Eider Handicap Chase will take some getting at 4 miles 1 furlong but Charlie Swan’s Teeming Rain could make the long journey count. Nine Da Sivola and Kinburn rate as the main dangers.
Finally, with In Compliance not a certain runner in the Bobbyjo Chase, Dun Doire is taken to finally get his head in front on the way to a crack at the Grand National.


Ornais, Huntingdon, 3.35
Fast Forward, Sandown, 3.20
Isn’t that Lucky, Sandown, 5.00
Faasel, Kempton, 2.35
Graphic Approach, Kempton, 3.15
Dun Doire, Fairyhouse, 3.15
Teeming Rain, Newcastle, 3.30

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