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The Road to Cheltenham: Faugheen still a machine with comeback win

Faugheen was very impressive in his comeback run on Sunday and is now favourite for the Champion Hurdle
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There were Festival clues aplenty after three days of action at the Cheltenham November Meeting and across the Irish Sea at Punchestown, the Follow The Money break down the major market moves...

"Making all the 9 year old never looked in danger jumping well throughout and his rivals couldn’t get near him eventually winning by a total of 16 lengths. Bigger prices for the Champion Hurdle quickly diminished, trading at (5.0) before today’s race, he now sits at (3.5) favourite." (Faugheen)

November's Cheltenham Meeting kept punters on their toes this weekend as the Road to Cheltenham 2018 gets shorter and shorter. The contending horses at Prestbury Park had punters rethinking their antepost bets for March after some underwhelming performances but also some surprises. The majority of the action this week was seen at Cheltenham but before this weekend's racing can be reviewed, we will travel down south to Exeter where the week got off to a surprising start on Monday...

Alan King's Grade 1-winning hurdler Yanworth was as cool as a cucumber when jumping around Exeter at the end of October but this effort was not to be matched 20 days later when Barry Geraghty was unseated by the versatile horse.

A blip at the seventh fence was not something that Alan King would have foreseen and that mistake has led to the trainer rethinking his strategies for the Cheltenham Festival where either the RSA or JLT Novices Chase remain his respective targets for this horse. After that mistake in Exeter, Yanworth is trading at [16.0] for the RSA Chase and [16.5] for the JLT Novices.

Oscar could join illustrious company

Staying with the JLT Novices Chase, Finian's Oscar heads the betting at [7.2] after claiming victory in the Steel Plate and Sections Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on Friday. Bryan Cooper piloted the Tizzard-trained horse across the finish line in what could have been described as a muddling affair in the four-runner race.

Oscar, hoping to emulate the success of past winners of the Steel Plate and Sections Novices' Chase such as Denman and Imperial Commander, knuckled down close to the finish to shake off Barry Geraghty on board Movewiththetimes.

After the victory, rumours quickly gathered pace that Tizzard would be gunning for the prestigious Arkle Chase in March and those rumours gained substance as the trainer hinted post-race that the five year old horse would certainly be capable of bringing home the glory on the festival's opening day. Finian's Oscar is currently priced at [13.5] for the Arkle.

Mullins Machine as good as ever

Faugheen the machine returned to the track for the first time since winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2015 and he wasted little time showing his class under Paul Townend who stepped in for an injured Ruby Walsh.

Making all the 9 year old never looked in danger jumping well throughout and his rivals couldn't get near him eventually winning by a total of 16 lengths. Bigger prices for the Champion Hurdle quickly diminished, trading at [5.0] before today's race, he now sits at [3.5] favourite. With Buveur D'air yet to reappear this season, the prospect of both of them locking horns come March is exciting to say the least.

Fox Norton was very impressive in Sunday afternoon's Grade 2 Shloer Chase at Cheltenham. Old rival Special Tiara was brushed aside by the Ryanair Chase favourite in a smartly run race by Irish jockey Bryan Cooper.

The victory had additional meaning behind it after the passing of his owner Alan Potts during the week. The Fox had punters quickly viewing prices for the Ryanair Chase where [7.4] is the going rate but that sublime display on Sunday has seen the Tizzard-trained horse now trading at [9.2] for the Champion Chase.

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