The Road To Cheltenham: Seven Barrows star still Gold Cup favourite

Road To Respect is a new contender for the Gold Cup
Road To Respect is a new contender for the Gold Cup
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At the end of a busy Festive period of racing, the Follow The Money team return to look at what impact the big races have made on the Festival markets...

"A new Gold Cup contender emerged in the shape of Road To Respect who was very impressive in fending off last year’s winner Outlander. He is now trading [12.0] having been [32.0] pre-race."

As the year comes to a close we were graced with one of the most eventful weeks in the racing calendar. Plenty of big names were on show across the UK and Ireland with a number showcasing their Cheltenham credentials and some that were slightly more disappointing.

The Cap could fit in Supreme

We will start off with the Novice Hurdlers and the Supreme Novice Hurdle which all centred around the Paddy Power Future Champion Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.

This race left us with a slightly unsatisfactory result as favourite Mengli Khan ducked violently into the rail while still holding every chance. Further drama ensued with Sharjah falling at the last - seemingly having the race at his mercy - trading as low as [1.04] and obscuring Real Steel who also bizarrely came down at the last. The Supreme market has taken the opinion that Sharjah would have indeed won the race before falling, seeing him shorten from [23.0] to [12.0]. Meanwhile Mengli Khan has drifted from [6.4] to [10.5] and one to also note is If The Cap Fits who won cosily at Kempton, now [11.5].

Min drifts for Champion

The Arkle Novice Chase seems to revolve around one horse and one horse only as Footpad was an impressive 11 length winner in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown. He has shortened from [4.9] to [2.6]. The main threats are Sceau Royal [7.6] and Petit Mouchoir [11.5] who we are yet to see since October.

One of the strangest results over the week was the defeat of Min who after a stewards enquiry was relegated to second place. He was a strong contender to the mighty Altior in the Champion Chase market but now, after a poor race, has drifted from [3.5] to [6.4]. Politologue has gone from strength to strength this season and following an impressive win in the Desert Orchid Chase has shortened from [10.0] into [6.4], although his main rival that day, Special Tiara, did fall during the race.

Buveur D'Air looks primed for repeat victory

There was also a major shakeup in the Champion Hurdle market with Faugheen, who was so impressive on his return a few weeks ago bombing out badly, leaving connections scratching their heads, with no obvious explanation coming to the fore as to what exactly went wrong.

The market overreacted a little in the aftermath of that race, perhaps assuming he was going to be retired as he was matched as high as [75.0]. He has now been backed back down to be trading at [9.20].

On the other hand Buveur D'Air continued towards his Champion Hurdle defence in fine style beating the admirable The New One with relative ease. With the uncertainty around Faugheen, Buveur D'Air looks to have the race at his mercy and is now just [1.82] to retain his title.

Henderson inmate still heads Gold Cup market

Finally, the Gold Cup market also saw some major changes over the past week with nearly all runners at the head of the market lining up.

Might Bite was very brave when fending off all challengers to take the King George VI Chase at Kempton, showing no signs of the temperament issue that seen him nearly throw away the RSA at the 2017 Festival. He has since been backed from [11.0] into [5.1] for next year's showpiece, with other rivals putting in below par performances, further forcing that price down.

Most disappointing of all was last year's triple Gold Cup hero Sizing John in the newly named Leopardstown Christmas Chase. After a pleasing reappearance in the John Durkan a couple of weeks earlier, the writing was on the wall a long way from home as Sizing John struggled to land a blow and was well beaten with vets noting he was post-race abnormal. Perhaps just too bad to be true, he has drifted from [4.50] to [9.60].

Another disappointment on the day was the very quirky but hugely talented Yorkhill, who was taking the step up to three miles for the first time and also debuting in open company over fences. He pulled his way to the front early on and looked to be travelling well before jumping slightly left as he often does down the back before fading very tamely late.

The market reacted strongly and he can now be backed at a massive [90.0] having been trading around [7.60] pre-race. Despite this, a new Gold Cup contender emerged in the shape of Road To Respect who was very impressive in fending off last year's winner Outlander. He is now trading [12.0] having been [32.0] pre-race.

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