Christmas came early for many jumps racing fans over the weekend, as we were treated to a number of high profile clashes so early on in the season.
At Newcastle, there was a pre-Champion Hurdle meeting with last season's Supreme Novice winner Summerville Boy along with Ballymore victor Samcro serving it up to two-time winner of the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival - Buveur D'Air. It was the latter who proved he was still top dog in the divison, beating the Gordon Elliot-trained Samcro into second, with Summerville Boy finishing last of the four finishers.
Buveur D'Air really is a fan favourite, and has only been beaten once over hurdles - with no shame in being beaten by Altior in the Supreme Novice two years ago. However, many were rooting for a surprise as it would of opened the Champion Hurdle market up, to be more attractive for a betting perspective. As a result of the 7yo's success, it will be the second year in a row where he goes into the Christmas break already a short price for the Festival Feature, possibly scaring off many potential challengers.
He is now no-bigger than an even money favourite for the Champion Hurdle; a price which is surely moments from going, having been as big as 5/2 before the off in the Fighting Fifth. The bookies believe he has Samcro covered, who is now as big as 9/1, with Laurina, the best chance according to bookmakers to chase down Nicky Henderson's dual winner.
The same can also be said for Apples Jade, after her sauntering display in the Hatton's Grace on Sunday, has left her a short price favourite for the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham. The Gordon Elliott mare took the Fairyhouse showpiece for the third year running, and looks relatively unchallenged at the moment in her division. Having said that, she did disappoint when a strong favourite for the Mares earlier this year and will be looking to seek redemption on Benie Des Dieux's victory. There is still a chance she could go up against the boys in the Champion Hurdle, or step up for the Stayers - like many believed she should of done last term, but those claims have been all but dismissed by both owner and trainer.
Apples Jade is approximately 6/4 for the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham, with last year's winner Benie Des Dieux drifting out to 3/1 - 7/2 in some places. As for the Champion Hurdle, she is currently fifth favourite at 10/1, whereas she is slightly shorter for the Stayers at 8's
Elsewhere, Santini propelled himself to the summit of the RSA Novices Chase market, after scoring on his chasing debut in some style at Newbury, where Sizing Tennessee took the infamous Ladbrokes Trophy for Colin Tizzard and Tom Scudamore. There were many insignificant runs from the market principles in the race formerly known as the Hennessey, again suggesting that there isn't great talent really coming through, as there was in recent years with the likes of Native River, Many Clouds, and of course the mighty Denman all landing the spoils. This has not altered the market in the Cheltenham Gold Cup whatsoever.
Santini is now as short as 3/1 for the RSA at Cheltenham, with Delta Work - also a winner over the weekend, next best at 8/1.