What This Weekend Has Meant For The Cheltenham Festival - 04/02/2019

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WHAT THIS WEEKEND HAS MEANT FOR THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL - 04/02/2019

The Champion Hurdle looks set to be one of the best and biggest renewals in the 21st Century, as it was confirmed by Gordon Elliott and Michael O'Leary on Sunday, that Apples Jade will be aimed at the big one at the Cheltenham Festival, after her sparkling performance in the BHP Insurance Irish equivalent on Saturday.

Dropping to two miles for the first time since the 2016 Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, it was a real test to see just how versatile Gordon Elliott’s mare really was.

Jack Kennedy spoke in the week that there should be no fear in the 7yo’s speed, and she put up an outstanding array of jumping, acceleration and overall ability to storm away from any of her pursuers.

Buveur D'Air warmed up for the opening Championship race at Prestbury Park in his usual preparation race at Sandown, but looks to have sufficient competition this year, in the shape of two outstanding Mares.

Apples Jade - of course a winner in the Mares Hurdle back in 2017, has now been cut as short as 2/1 for the Champion Hurdle, but remains odds-on in the Mares should connections decide to take a late swerve.

Laurina has only been seen once this season - also in Esher when winning by a wide winning margin in a match-up, but trainer Willie Mullins has not yet confirmed her date with destiny.

She is currently 3/1 third favourite in the Champion, and as a result of additional competition, the dual winner Buveur D'Air has just been eased to 6/4.

Melon who finished a distant fourth to Apples Jade has doubled in price - from 8's to 16's, whilst the runner-up Supasundae has just drifted out to 14/1 from 12/1.

What a race in prospect it could be.

Elsewhere, there was a big mover in the Arkle market for Joseph O'Brien, as Le Richebourg proved far too superior at Leopardstown, leading home a one-two for the yard.

Winning by seven lengths, he is now being priced no bigger than the clear 4/1 favourite for the English equivalent, whilst their was not much change for Gary Moore's Knocknanuss, after he fell at the second fence.

O'Brien was it again on Sunday with Sir Erec, who himself is now also the clear favourite in the JCB Triumph market, after he confirmed the form with Tiger Tap Tap. Sir Erec is now the 2/1 for the opening race on the Friday.

Klassical Dream could be the leading light for Willie Mullins in the Supreme this year, after getting back up under Ruby Walsh to land the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle.

The 9/4 favourite made it two from two for his new yard, having recently transferred from France, outstaying stable companion Aramon, who in turn was six lengths clear of Vision D'honneur.

Klassical Dream - owned by Mrs Joanne Coleman now sits well amongst the market principles for the opening race of the festival - a race Mullins has famously had a very good record in over the years.

The 5yo is now no bigger than a 7/1 shot, with only Ballymore-bound Battleoverdoyen and Angels Breath for Nicky Henderson at a lower price.

Mullins and Walsh were also left celebrating later in the day, after Bellshill got up in time in a much depleted Irish Gold Cup field, to land the spoils for Andrea and Graham Wylie.

Bellshill - third in the RSA nearly two years ago to Might Bite, has had a wretched run with injures and bad luck in running, but has been valued at 12/1 from 16/1 for the feature race at the Cheltenham Festival.

After some surprising sketchy jumping probably costing his chances, Road To Respect remains around the 14/1 mark for Noel Meade for the same contest.

There was also one notable market mover in Britain on Saturday. Since the news that the French raider Master Dino was ruled out for the season, the two-and-a-half mile novice division has been left rather open.

That was until the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices Chase at Sandown Park, where Defi Du Seuil - a former winner at the Cheltenham Festival reversed the placings with Lostintranslation and seems to have come on with a great deal of improvement.

He has shorted from 8/1 to 5/1, whilst Lostintranslation has just moved out to six's. Vinndication meanwhile was ridden rather differently and much less prominent, and that came to bite him as he could never get on terms with the leaders.

However due to his running style, he is unmoved in both the RSA and JLT fields despite his seven race unbeaten run sadly coming to an end.

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