The Road to Cheltenham: Bristol De Mai announces himself in Gold Cup picture

Despite winning easily, Melon is still fairly friendless in the Champion Hurdle market
Despite winning easily, Melon is still fairly friendless in the Champion Hurdle market
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There were Gold Cup market moves aplenty following Bristol De Mai's surprise win in the Charlie Hall Chase and the disappointing performances from Our Duke, Cue Card and Coneygree. The Follow The Money team have all the latest details...

"In beating his stablemate Coquin Mans by 4 ½ lengths, Melon will have to step up again if he is to beat the likes of Buveur D’Air. The much anticipated return to the racetrack of the former Champion Hurdler Faugheen (8.2) in the Morgina Hurdle will no doubt play a role in how Melon is campaigned, however he remains a horse to follow with interest this season."

The first Grade 1 of the season, the JN Wine Champion Chase was expected to see Our Duke [15.5] cement his place at the forefront of the Cheltenham Gold Cup market. However the Jessica Harrington trained gelding disappointed greatly, looking a beaten horse after a circuit.

With the favourite running well below standard it was left to the Gigginstown, Gordon Elliot and Jack Kennedy axis to take home the prize with Outlander who was adding to his Grade 1 tally having secured the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown last December. Outlander [95.0] was followed home by his fellow Gigginstown team-mate in Road To Respect [26.0], however with both horses trading at big figures on the Exchange they'll have to continue their upward progression if they are to be involved come March.

In the other big Graded chase that took place on Saturday, the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, it was a case of the young guns coming to the fore in the shape of Bristol De Mai [36.0] and Blacklion [110.0] who announced themselves as Gold Cup contenders while former winner Coneygree [48.0] and Cue Card [65.0] both failed to complete the course.

With both market leaders failing to finish, it's hard to say how the Charlie Hall form stacks up and with the likes of Thistlecrack [6.8], Sizing John [7.8], Mite Bite [11.0] and Yorkhill [13.5] all yet to make their seasonal debut the Gold Cup market has a fair way to run.

In much the same way, the Champion Hurdle market is still a bit of a mystery. Melon [15.5], from the Willie Mullins stable, made his first start of the season in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal, and while he won, his performance didn't have punters rushing out to back him for the two mile championship event in March.

An imposing chestnut, Melon travelled well throughout the contest and while he never looked in real danger, his jumping was a tad scrappy with a mistake at the last giving his followers a scare or two before collecting the prize.

In beating his stablemate Coquin Mans by 4 ½ lengths, Melon will have to step up again if he is to beat the likes of Buveur D'Air. The much anticipated return to the racetrack of the former Champion Hurdler Faugheen [8.2] in the Morgina Hurdle will no doubt play a role in how Melon is campaigned, however he remains a horse to follow with interest this season.

The Down Royal card, which took place on Friday and Saturday, saw the Gordon Elliott trained Poli Roi impress when taking the opening maiden hurdle on the Friday. A beautiful individual to the eye, the son of Poliglote travelled well before pulling away to defeat Asbury Boss by 3 ¼ lengths.

Granted it was only a maiden hurdle but it was the manner in which Poli Roi travelled that took the eye and while he will face stiffer competition, one could imagine him taking a hand in the likes of the Ballymore Novice Hurdle, for which he is trading at [80.0], or the Albert Barlett Hurdle [30.0] at the Cheltenham Festival.

Another real eye-catcher this weekend was the Amy Murphy trained Kalashnikov who landed a Wetherby maiden hurdle by 10 lengths. He immediately entered the reckoning for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle for which he is [32.0] on the Exchange.

While in the Novice Chase division the likes of Presenting Percy and Modus both made successful starts to what should be a profitable campaign for both horses as the season clicks into gear.

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