The Road to Cheltenham: Cue Card shortens for Gold Cup

The Road to Cheltenham brings readers updates on price moves for the big races
The Road to Cheltenham brings readers updates on price moves for the big races

Welcome to the fourth instalment of The Road to Cheltenham, in which we have a look at some of the recent events and the significant moves in the antepost markets ahead of March's big meeting...


"For the outstanding performance of the weekend we look no further than Thistlecrack in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday. Colin Tizzard’s seven year old won the three mile contest with consummate ease and now heads the antepost market for the World Hurdle, the feature race on the Thursday of the meeting."

It was a quiet weekend as far as Festival pointers go with many of the top trainers keeping their powder dry until after the Christmas and New Year events.

For the outstanding performance of the weekend we look no further than Thistlecrack in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday. Colin Tizzard's seven year old won the three mile contest with consummate ease and now heads the antepost market for the World Hurdle, the feature race on the Thursday of the meeting. Backed from 8.07/1 in to 3.65 and always travelling well, the bay gelding could be named the winner a long way out, and taking up the running between the last two hurdles he quickly pulled clear to beat Reve De Sivola by eight lengths with a further 20 lengths back to the third horse Deputy Dan.

There is no doubt that he beat some top performers on Saturday, the runner up was bidding to win this race for the fourth consecutive time and a sign of Thistlecrack's improvement can be gauged by his increased superiority over both Deputy Dan and Aqalim from the last time they met. This extended distance really suits the horse, he has won three of his four races since being tried at this trip and he looks a worthy favourite for the race which had become a bit of a puzzle for punters, with previous favourite Annie Power's probable target being the Mare's Hurdle. His trainer has pencilled in the Cleve Hurdle at Cheltenham for his next race at the end of next month before going to the Festival. We look forward to his next appearance with interest.

Colin Tizzard is very much a trainer in form and could be a pointer to stable star Cue Card's chances in the Gold Cup where there has be some interest from 14.013/1 in to 13.012/1.

There was little in the rest of the Ascot card to cause any major moves in the ante post markets, so we turn our attention to action from the Irish meeting at Fairyhouse on Saturday. Willie Mullins once again had a strong line up, winning the first three races on the card. Two in particular caught the eye - his novice chaser Roi Des Francs made all the running to win the three mile Beginners Chase by six lengths. His trainer has indicated that he will be aimed at the National Hunt Chase at the Festival and the market reacted positively to this display, which was only the six year old's second outing over the larger obstacles, and saw his price come in to 11.010/1 from 16.015/1.

There has also been money for him in the RSA Chase 34.033/1 in to 16.015/1, and he looks a thorough stayer. The ground conditions obviously suited him, and what's more, he looks an interesting contender for whichever Festival target is chosen.

Mullins' most impressive winner, however, was Gangster in the Staying Novice Hurdle who is reported to be aimed at the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle for which he has been backed from 25.024/1 in to 16.015/1. The five year old was always travelling smoothly and when given his head between the last two hurdles he went on to win by an easy ten lengths. The runner up, Last Encounter, was third in a group 2 hurdle on his previous race, so it looks like a solid performance by the lightly-raced French import. Staying does seem to be his game, although he showed enough speed to win over two miles at Listowel last time out and will no doubt add to Mullins' usually strong Cheltenham force.

Other Cheltenham news this week was dominated by the announcement that Gold Cup winner Coneygree has suffered an injured hock and is doubtful to defend his crown next March.

Thistlecrack: In to 3.613/5 from 8.07/1 for the World Hurdle
Cue Card: 5.04/1 in to 4.67/2 for the Gold Cup
Roi Des Francs: 16.015/1 in to 11.010/1 for the National Hunt Chase
Roi Des Francs: 34.033/1 in to 16.015/1 for the RSA Chase
Gangster: 25.024/1 in to 16.015/1 for the Albert Bartlett


For all our coverage of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, click here

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