The Road to Cheltenham: More festival clues with just over a fortnight to go

It's just over two weeks to the start of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival
It's just over two weeks to the start of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival
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There are now only 16 days until the first race at this year's festival and here the Follow The Money team bring you the main market movers in the ante-post markets over the past seven days...

"The Sunday card at Leopardstown featured a potential Arkle challenger in Alisier D’Irlande who won the 2mile 1furlong novice chase by an easy nine lengths."

With most of the big guns having now completed their trials, the spotlight this week has been on some of the lesser contenders for the top honours.

There was a good card at Kempton on Saturday, the most significant winner was the Paul Nicholls-trained Zubayr who took the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle in some style. This was the gelding's first run over hurdles, having won twice on the flat in his native France, and he was always travelling well - held up in last place, he made smooth progress to take second two out and when his jockey shook him up he quickened nicely to win by 3¾ lengths.

Connections of the horse were bullish about Zubayr's chances in the Triumph Hurdle, his next race, in which he has been supported from 16.015/1 in to 7.06/1 second favourite.

This race has been good pointer for Cheltenham - four of the last 11 winners of the Adonis have gone on to win the Triumph and punters are hoping that Zubayr will continue the trend. The 2011 winner, Zarkandar, was one of the four who doubled up, was also trained by Nicholls who reports that the strong gallop set by the runner-up Azzuri suited his horse and he expects a bold showing at Cheltenham.

Another good winner on the Kempton card was Theatre Guide in the three mile handicap chase. This was an impressive performance from the Colin Tizzard nine-year-old who won by a long looking 10 lengths and has the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase as his target, a race which has seen his price contract from 26.025/1 in to 17.016/1. If the handicapper is not too harsh on this horse (who was runner-up in this season's Hennesy) his connections feel he will run a huge race.

Those racegoers who got to Kempton early were treated to a dozen of Cheltenham's fancied horses in a series of pre-race gallops. Amongst them were Gold Cup hopeful Cue Card - whose jockey Paddy Brennan stated that he thought the horse felt better than he did when winning the King George on Boxing Day - and My Tent Or Yours.

The Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old, who has the Champion Hurdle in his sights (the horse was runner up in 2014 and has not run since April of that year) pleased his trainer with the workout and Henderson believes he will only improve between now and the big day. He is currently standing at 10.519/2 for the Champion from 12.011/1 and with a great deal of uncertainty about the race since the shock withdrawal of Faugheen, punters feel he may have a chance if back to his best.

At Newcastle the first race was won in bloodless style by Seeyouatmidnight, although his backers were given a few anxious moments with some rather chancy jumping. He is aimed at the RSA Chase where his trainer is hoping for quicker ground to see him at his best - although punters did not seem overly impressed with the performance and saw his price drift from 11.010/1 to 13.5 for the race.

On Saturday Chepstow staged another qualifier for the Pertemps Network Hurdle and was won by Arpege D'alene who just got up on the line to beat Dan Emmet by half a length. This was a good performance by the lightly raced grey gelding who had a wind operation after a disappointing run over Christmas but his trainer was happy with the win and will now head straight to the Pertemps Final in which he has been supported from 15.014/1 in to 13.5.

The Sunday card at Leopardstown featured a potential Arkle challenger in Alisier D'Irlande who won the 2mile 1furlong novice chase by an easy nine lengths.

Making all the running, his jockey was able to ease up at the end for a facile victory. It is difficult to judge how good today's performance was but there has been a little bit of interest in the market, his price shortening from 50.049/1 in to 40.039/1, as punters look for an alternative to hot favourite Douvan.

Notable Market Moves

Zubayr Triumph Hurdle 16.015/1 in to 7.06/1
Theatre Guide Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase 26.025/1 in to 17.016/1
My Tent Or Yours Champion Hurdle 12.011/1 in to 10.519/2
Seeyouatmidnight RSA Chase 11.010/1 out to 13.5
Arpege D'alene Pertemps Final 15.014/1 in to 13.5
Alisier D'Irlande Arkle Chase 50.049/1 in to 40.039/1

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