Not for the first time in this column Willie Mullins dominates the coverage after stars such as Douvan, Faugheen, Un De Sceaux, and Vroum Vroum Mag won their weekend races as they build up towards this year's Cheltenham Festival. We bring you all the ante-post market movers...
"After avenging the loss against Nichols Canyon, Faugheen has now contracted to 1.454/9 from 1.618/13 and will be many punters' festival banker."
With just over seven weeks to go the markets are really starting to take shape and there were a number of significant moves over the weekend.
Mullins and Walsh at the Ascot double
Firstly we focus on yesterday's meeting at Ascot, where surprise surprise Willie Mullins was again the man of the moment, scoring a big race double in combination with Ruby Walsh.
Vroum Vroum Mag handled the increase in trip in impressive style with Ruby barely having to ask any questions and punters have been keen to support her across two races due to some uncertainty around her entries. She contracted in price for the World Hurdle, from 10.09/1 into 7.413/2, and for the Mares Hurdle, from 10.09/1 into 7.06/1, and Mullins has stated that her direction will likely be dictated by whether they can get a run into Annie Power before the festival.
His next eye catcher in the markets was Un De Sceaux in the Clarence House Chase, he confirmed his position as one of the festivals leading lights by making all to win by five lengths and barely put a foot wrong with some flawless jumping.
He is now trading a shade of odds on - 1.991/1 from a previous 2.568/5 - for the Champion Chase, and Mullins has reported that he has appeared more settled than he has ever seen him, surely a statement that will strike fear into the hearts of his rivals.
Impressive win for Bristol, not so for The New One
Over at Haydock Bristol De Mai had no problems with the heavy ground and romped to a 32 length victory in the 13:30 Grade 2 Novices Chase. Again a horse with potentially a couple of festival avenues, the most likely being the JLT were he has been well backed, and is now trading at 13.012/1 from a previous 18.017/1.
The New One only managed to labour home a two and a quarter length winner in the Champion Hurdle Trial and this hasn't filled the market with confidence. He is now available at 25.024/1 from the previous 19.018/1 for the Champion Hurdle itself, and will have to very much come on for the run to have even a chance against the machine Faugheen.
Faugheen back to being a machine
At Leopardstown on Sunday afternoon the defending Champion Hurdle champion Faugheen romped home with plenty in hand, leaving Champion Hurdle rivals Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire struggling in his wake.
After avenging the loss against Nichols Canyon, Faugheen has now contracted to 1.454/9 from 1.618/13 and will be many punters' festival banker. Following their thrashing Nichols Canyon has eased from 15.014/1 to 17.016/1 and Arctic Fire has remained at 12.5 having managed to keep relatively in touch with the leader.
To win by 15 lengths on the testing ground having seen off the challenge of Nichols Canyon at half way was in the words of Walsh "explosive" and he added some extra spice to the contest, in boxing style stating "I was riding the Champion Hurdle horse and if they are going to beat me they are going to have to come and get me".
Earlier on the card Arkle Favourite Douvan also put in a fine display to remain unchanged at the head of the Arkle market at 1.664/6.
Notable Market Moves
Vroum Vroum Mag 7.413/2 from 10.09/1 for the World Hurdle
Vroum Vroum Mag 7.06/1 from 10.09/1 for the Mares Hurdle
Un De Sceaux 1.991/1 from 2.568/5 for the Champion Chase
Bristol De Mai 13.012/1 from 18.017/1 for the JLT Novice Chase
The New One 25.024/1 from 19.018/1 for the Champion Hurdle
Faugheen 1.454/9 from 1.618/13 for the Champion Hurdle
Nichols Canyon 17.016/1 from 15.014/1 for the Champion Hurdle
Arctic Fire - remains 12.5 for the Champion Hurdle
Douvan - remains 1.664/6 for the Arkle