Road To Cheltenham: Sizing John takes first step towards Gold Cup repeat

Sizing John shortened for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after victory on Sunday
Sizing John shortened for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after victory on Sunday
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On a weekend that saw Politologue triumph in the Tingle Creek and Sizing John make a winning re-appearance in the John Durkan, the Follow The Money team return with all the latest Cheltenham market moves...

"The seven length victory which saw Jessie Harrington's stable star ease past Djakadam before being pushed out after the last to a comfortable win has sent him into clear favourite for a repeat success at the festival at [5.1]."

Triumphant Politologue shortened for Queen Mother

Another huge week on the Road to Cheltenham with a number of the key races producing some major market moves. The Tingle Creek at Sandown was the big race on Saturday and the dual between Fox Norton and Politologue was one to savour. The duo had a battle right to the line with Politologue proving just the stronger, winning by half a length and defying his odds of [4.5].

Paul Nicholls who is no stranger to the winner's enclosure said "He is starting to look the proper job". This bodes well heading into the festive period and we expect to see him again at Ascot at the end of January and then onto Cheltenham.

Colin Tizzard the trainer of Fox Norton felt a couple of scruffy jumps proved pivotal. Politologue is now trading at [8.6] from [10.0] for the Champion Chase while Fox Norton has drifted from [8.0] out to [20.0] for the same race.

We saw a small field full of quality horses' line up for the Henry VIII Novices' Chase and it was something of a shock when Sceau Royal in the hands of a motionless Daryl Jacob moved up on the outside of Brain Power going to the last. He took up the running to win easily as Brain Power unseated David Mullins at the last.

The major disappointment of the race was Finian's Oscar who was the last of three finishers who never really got into the race and was beaten a long way from home.

Colin Tizzard said "We have learnt a lot today. He is not going to be running over two miles again, that's for sure". Sceau Royal is now [8.6] from [26.0] for the Arkle after his impressive display while both Brain Power and Finian's Oscar have drifted in their respective markets.

Ultra-impressive Blaklion now clear National favourite

The other big race on a busy Saturday afternoon of racing came from Aintree. A field of fifteen horses lined up in the Becher Chase and Blaklion went off the clear [2.75] favourite after being backed at some big prices Ante Post for this race.

Second to Bristol De Mai on his seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, Blaklion jumped brilliantly throughout and never looked in any danger. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said "It was a superb round of jumping, but it's a relief to see him win". Bookmakers make him the clear favourite for the Grand National now over the same fences cutting him into [12.5] from [18.0] for this showpiece event of the year. However, the Gold Cup at Cheltenham is another possibility and he can be still backed at some bigger prices - [42.0] from [70.0].

Sizing John dreaming of Gold Cup repeat

Sunday saw the return of some high quality performers in Ireland with 2017 Cheltenham winners Un De Sceaux (Ryanair) and Sizing John (Gold Cup), both returning with impressive wins at Cork and Punchestown respectively.

Un De Sceaux made all in treacherous conditions in a facile, eased down 25 length victory in the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase, seeing his price for a repeat of his 2017 Ryanair success being clipped in to [5.9], vying for favouritism with Tingle Creek runner-up Fox Norton who is at [5.7].

On a similarly dreary day at Punchestown, Sizing John re-opposed his old rival Djakadam who he has now defeated in his last three races including this year's Gold Cup.

The seven length victory which saw Jessie Harrington's stable star ease past Djakadam before being pushed out after the last to a comfortable win has sent him into clear favourite for a repeat success at the festival at [5.1]. His nearest rival in the market is Nicky Henderson's exciting Might Bite [8.0] who is on target for a return in the King George on Boxing Day, a race which is sure to shake up the Gold Cup market in a big way.

Hollowgraphic confirms early promise

Away from the big names returning, there were a couple of exciting Novices to stick in the notebook with a view to the March. On a day where Willie Mullins managed four winners, a double at both Cork and Punchestown, we saw both Getabird and Fabulous Saga win impressively.

Getabird was a major talking horse last season and was Antepost favourite for the Champion Bumper before getting injured prior to the Festival. He returned with a seven length victory over 2m4f, and his price has took a tumble into [18.5] for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle in March.

His stable mate Fabulous Saga was not fazed by the poor ground conditions and romped home to an eased down 70 length victory over the 3m distance at Cork. The impressive stayer looks good value in the often highly attritional Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at [24.0].

Finally the weekend's racing wrapped up leaving us with a new Champion Bumper favourite in the form of Willie Mullins trained Hollowgraphic. After a second placed effort in the Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival in April, he returned today with a huge reputation to uphold. He certainly backed that up with a 13 length victory over the 2 mile trip, so impressive that he is now clear favourite at [12.0] for the contest in March.

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