Road to Cheltenham: Major moves throughout the Festival markets

Apples Jade is one of the shortest prices in Betfair's Cheltenham markets
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Three days of high-quality racing on both sides of the Irish Sea has brought plenty of moves in Betfair's antepost market

"Apples Jade produced one of the performances of the season going clear after the last, beating the 2017 Stayers Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon by nine lengths, giving the five-year-old her sixth Grade 1. Elliot stated after the race the target was 100% going to be the Mares Hurdle where she is [2.6] to repeat this years' success."

A huge week on the Road to Cheltenham with a number of the key races making major moves in the Festival markets.

Newbury serves up a selection of Festival fancies

The Ladbrokes Winter Carnival saw two days of high-quality action from Newbury including a Grade 2 Novice Chase which was a straight shootout between 2017 Champion Hurdle favourite Yanworth and 2017 Ballymore Novices Hurdle winner Willoughby Court. The latter stayed on strongly to win by three lengths, moving his position in the JLT market. From [17.0] he is now a [8.4] shot.

The feature race of the day, the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle, saw the return from injury of the hugely exciting 2016 King George winner Thistlecrack, vying for favouritism with the consistent Grade 1 staying hurdler Uknowwhatimeanharry. It looked a straight shootout between the pair, but Thistlecrack's race was effectively over with two furlongs to go, resulting in him going from [5.6] to [11.5] for the Gold Cup.

It was hard not to be impressed by the game Beer Goggles, who made all, keeping on strongly for pressure as Uknowwhatimeanharry threatened to challenge. The shock result didn't seem to faze too many as Uknowwhatimeanharry remains second favourite for the Stayers Hurdle at [8.6], with Beer Goggles at [36.0].

Saturday saw a few interesting runners with respect to the March showpiece with the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury and a 2m Novice Hurdle at Doncaster throwing up a few clues to potential seasonal improvers. The Saturday centrepiece, formerly known as the Hennessy, saw the rapidly improving Total Recall as favourite, taking on a field of high quality handicappers and experienced Graded performers, including the 2017 RSA Chase second Whisper and 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree.

The 3m2f contest saw an epic finish with the valiant Whisper just getting collared late on by an expertly ridden Total Recall with the former giving up a stone in weight and just getting beaten a neck in arguably the most exciting National Hunt race of this season. Trainer Willie Mullins elected a possible title at the Gold Cup with the winner, despite admitting he would need to considerably improve again, the market appears to agree with that as he is trading at [55.0] while the runner up Whisper saw a huge move from around [40.0] to [18.0] for the same race.

Kalashnikov takes aim at the Supreme

The opener at Doncaster saw the hugely impressive Amy Murphy-trained Kalashnikov make his second start over hurdles after a bloodless 10 length victory on debut. He took on Irish Prophecy who had a similarly impressive debut at Sandown. Kalashnikov quickened clear after three out to put the race to bed quiet comfortably winning again by 10 lengths making him an interesting contender in the festival Novice Hurdles, primarily the Supreme where he looks decent proposition at [26.0].

Elliott treble at Fairyhouse lights up Festival markets

Sunday at Fairyhouse brought a card laden with high quality Grade 1 action with 2017 Cheltenham winners Apples Jade (Mares Hurdle), Nichols Canyon (Stayers Hurdle) and Presenting Percy (Pertemps Final) all featuring. With the omission of Annamix for the rest season, the Supreme market was crying out for a solid favourite and the Gordon Elliot trained/Gigginstown House Stud owned Mengli Khan duly obliged in an emphatic 5.5 length victory bringing up the first of a treble on the day for the connections. The former Hugo Palmer-trained flat performer by Lope De Vega sits rock solid at the top of the Supreme picture at just [8.0].

The feature of the day was the Grade 1 Hatton's Grace Hurdle over 2m4f which saw the strongly-punted and race-fit Apples Jade heading the market against ultra-consistent seven-time Grade 1 winner Nichols Canyon. The Gordon Elliot-trained mare produced one of the performances of the season going clear after the last, beating the 2017 Stayers Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon by nine lengths, giving the five-year-old her sixth Grade 1. Elliot stated after the race the target was 100% going to be the Mares Hurdle where she is [2.6] to repeat this years' success.

Nichols Canyon would have possibly needed the run despite winning on his seasonal reappearance the past 3 seasons, and the Stayers Hurdle market has been unaffected with the likeable stayer trading as [8.2] favourite for the Thursday showpiece.

The RSA and JLT Novice Chase markets had a couple of interesting movers with both Presenting Percy and 2017 Albert Bartlett favourite Death Duty winning in impressive fashion.

The Pat Kelly-trained Festival winner cruised to an 11 length victory in the Porterstown Handicap Chase, never threatening to come off the bridle, making him second favourite to Monalee at [10.5] for the RSA Chase.

The very impressive Death Duty rounded up a treble for the Elliot/Gigginstown partnership beating the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase field by 3.25 lengths. Despite running in the 3m Albert Bartlett at the festival this year, the imposing son of Shantou has been elected for the JLT over today's trip and is currently a solid 8 shot in what is shaping up to be one of the races of the festival.

It would be wrong to wrap up the weekend's action without mentioning the brilliant 2017 Champion Hurdler Buveuir D'Air who took the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle albeit at skinny odds of [1.15] beating Irving, winner of the previous two renewals. The victory cemented his status as rock-solid second favourite for a repeat success in March at [4.0], where he will take on 2015 winner Faugheen [2.76], sure to be a fascinating battle with the hope that both stars get to the Tuesday showpiece in top form.

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