The Road To Cheltenham: Faugheen's injury dominates the news agenda

Rounding up the latest news and odds ahead of Cheltenham 2016
Rounding up the latest news and odds ahead of Cheltenham 2016

Faugheen being sadly ruled out of this year's festival due to injury is the piece of news on everyone's lips...

"Willie Mullins revealed the injury while at Punchestown where he was watching Annie Power win on her return with complete ease, after which he spoke of the possibility of her now being steered towards the Champion Hurdle rather than the Mares Hurdle as previously expected."

Unfortunately the biggest news was a season-ending injury to the Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen. News broke of The Machine's non participation on Wednesday and there were huge repercussions across many markets, most notably the Champion Hurdle itself.

Willie Mullins revealed the injury while at Punchestown where he was watching Annie Power win on her return with complete ease, after which he spoke of the possibility of her now being steered towards the Champion Hurdle rather than the Mares Hurdle as previously expected. That would require her to be supplemented at the five day stage and after her reintroduction to our market she was initially trading at around 3.9 before steadying at her current price of 4.77/2. No doubt this made some people rather happy as she has been previously matched for small change as high as 980.0979/1, whilst there is significant money at around 270.0269/1.

On the flip side of the coin, prior to the announcement Faugheen had been trading at around 1.594/7 with over £300,000 matched on him. This also made waves in the Mares Hurdle where doubts over Annie Power featuring caused her to drift out to 5.14/1 from around 2.68/5 and having been matched as low as 1.645/8. Fellow Mullins-trained mare Vroum Vroum Mag duly took on favouritism, now available at 2.77/4 from around 4.3100/30. In the World Hurdle we then saw Annie Power slide out to 18.5 from around 6.05/1 and Vroum Vroum Mag also wander out to 32.031/1, whilst favourite Thistlecrack tightened up to 2.265/4 from around 2.56/4. Finally we also saw Vroum Vroum Mag drift to 42.041/1 in the Ryanair Chase as a result of her being most likely aimed at the Mares Hurdle.

After all the drama of Wednesday, there was a bizarre drift on Supreme favourite Min the following day. Having started the day at around 3.259/4, he then traded as high as 9.08/1 with the rumour mill on social media going into overdrive about a possible setback before Mullins spoke out to allay any concerns and he has since settled back at 3.259/4.

Now moving on to the actual racing action of the past week, we will begin at Plumpton on Monday where Arkle hopeful Ar Mad won comfortably on his preparation run for the festival. On the back of that performance he shortened to around 9.08/1 from 12.011/1, however bad news was to come with trainer Gary Moore revealing he came back lame after the run and then confirming the next morning that he would miss the festival with a front leg injury. It was another cruel blow for trainer Moore with fellow Arkle contender Violet Dancer having also been ruled out for the season earlier in the week.

Starting at Ascot on Saturday, in the first race of the card we saw the Venetia Williams-trained Yala Enki dig deep to come out on top in a Novices Hurdle. This saw his price shorten in both the Albert Bartlett from 520.0519/1 in to 100.099/1 and the Neptune from 160.0159/1 in to 65.064/1. Heading to Haydock next, we saw the odds-on Fixe Le Kap disappoint in a Juvenile Hurdle when beaten by the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon after leading for much of the race. He had been second favourite in the Triumph market having traded at around 8.07/1 but has since doubled in price to 16.5, meanwhile Frodon came into 30.029/1 from 65.064/1.

Next up was the Grade Two Reynoldstown Chase back at Ascot where Vyta Du Roc took the honours from a strong finishing Minella Rocco in second. Off the back of that win Vyta Du Roc has come in to 34.033/1 from 160159/1 in the National Hunt Chase and 18.017/1 from 30.029/1 in the RSA, with trainer Nicky Henderson offering few clues as to which of the two he would be aimed at. Meanwhile Minella Rocco moved to 17.5 from 46.045/1 in the National Hunt Chase and 19.5 from 80.079/1 in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Henderson had another winner on the Ascot card in Different Gravey who returned from a lengthy absence to win in impressive style under top weight in a Handicap Hurdle. This caused Henderson somewhat of a dilemma as he only holds an entry over fences for the festival, whereas he now looks more likely for the Coral Cup or the World Hurdle. Having been introduced to both markets this morning he has been matched at 15.014/1 for the World Hurdle, although it is worth noting he needs to be supplemented for that race.

Finally looking at today's action across the Irish Sea, we saw Vigil lose his maiden status over Hurdles at Naas. This Dermot Weld-trained gelding won easily, hardly needing to come off the bridle under a confident ride from Davy Russell. He holds entries for the Supreme and the Neptune, and it was the Neptune where we saw a significant move with him coming in to 38.037/1 from 80.079/1. He will be no stranger to Prestbury Park having twice claimed credible fifths in Champion Bumpers in consecutive years.

Notable Market Moves

Annie Power Re-Introduced to World Hurdle @ 4.77/2
Annie Power 5.14/1 from 2.68/5 for the Mares Hurdle
Annie Power 18.5 from 6.05/1 for the World Hurdle
Vroum Vroum Mag 2.77/4 from 4.3100/30 for Mares Hurdle
Thistlecrack 2.265/4 from 2.56/4 for the World Hurdle
Yala Enki 10099/1 from 520519/1 in the Albert Bartlett
Yala Enki 65.064/1 from 160.0159/1 for the Neptune
Fixe Le Kap 16.5 from 8.07/1 for the Triumph
Frodon 30.029/1 from 65.064/1 for the Triumph

Vyta Du Roc 34.033/1 from 160159/1 for the National Hunt Chase
Vyta Du Roc 18.017/1 from 30.029/1 for the RSA Chase
Minella Rocco 17.5 from 46.045/1 for the National Hunt Chase

Minella Rocco 19.5 from 80.079/1 for the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase
Different Gravey Introduced @ 15.014/1 for the World Hurdle
Vigil 38.037/1 from 80.079/1 for the Neptune

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