Bob Worth the entrance fee alone
Richard Dunwoody looks at the ante-post markets, previews Saturday's Tingle Creek and looks at some of the key trends.
As we move into December that means we've only 3 months to wait until the pinnacle of the National Hunt season - the Cheltenham Festival - is upon us, and after last weekend's action then the ante-post markets certainly have taken a battering.
Starting with Bobs Worth, a horse I gave a positive mention to last week prior to his gutsy Hennessy win on Saturday. Nicky Henderson's charge is now into 5/1 for the Gold Cup and clear favourite with the majority of firms. He's taking exactly the same path as Denman did recently having already won the RSA Chase (2007), then going onto grab the Hennessy the following season before landing the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup - so can he follow suit?
The simple answer is, yes, of course he can. He's maturing into a really tough horse to beat and with just 5 career chase runs then there is surely a lot more to come from this 7 year-old. Add in that he loves it round Prestbury Park, being unbeaten now in four runs there (3 over hurdles), then although the value might have been squeezed out of his price he's still sure to have his supporters in the lead up to the race - he rates a solid option for me at this stage.
Denman also took in the Lexus and the Aon Chase (now Denman Chase) in his Gold Cup winning season, so we'll have to see what path Henderson picks for Bobs Worth, but the fact he goes so well fresh and that he was beaten at Kempton last season in the Feltham suggests his races might be limited between now and March.
With Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander all no longer on the scene, then this really is an exciting time for one of the 'new kids on the block' to step up. Yes, 2011 Gold Cup winner, Long Run, is still only 7 years-old and you certainly can't write-off a previous winner of the race - and at around 8/1 he rates a decent each-way alternative having also finished third in the 2012 renewal.
While of the others Paul Nicholls will be hoping his Silviniaco Conti, who got the better of Long Run in the Betfair Chase last month, can kick on again, but it's worth pointing out he's yet to tackle the tricky Cheltenham fences and was just third over hurdles here on his only previous outing at the track. I loved the way he jumped at Haydock last time and with Ruby sure to ride him he'll have every assistance in the plate, but, for me, I'd much rather be siding with a proven course performer at this level.
That leaves Irish raiders Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs, who are both also rising up the chasing ranks at a rate of knots. The first-named is now 6-from-7 over fences and although some might question the calibre of horses he's been beating he really could be anything and remains a hugely exciting prospect at just 7 years-old - he is, however, yet to race outside his native Ireland.
While, Sir Des Champs is unbeaten under rules - full stop! Yes, three hurdles wins, including the Martin Pipe Conditionals race at the Festival back in 2011, and five over fences, including last season's Jewson Novices' Chase, then he's another that has proven Cheltenham course form - the pair could meet on Sunday at Punchestown in the John Durkan Memorial Chase and if they do we'll know a lot more by this time next week.
The next ante-post market to get some action was the Ladbrokes-sponsored World Hurdle. The four-time winner of the race Big Buck's, who is now 9 years-old, did his normal thing in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday and win as he liked, and although that win saw his price come in a tad, it was while back at home in his Ditcheat box the following day that saw a further cut in his price. The reason for that was the poor showing on Sunday at Fairyhouse of Voler La Vedette, the mare that ran him to 1 ¾ lengths in last season's World Hurdle. Add in that Willie Mullins has openly said that he'll be keeping his classy Quevega to the Mares' only Hurdle at the Festival, then, once again, the opposition seems to be drying up - This time last week you could have got plenty of 5/4 on Paul Nicholls' inmate winning again next March, but you'll now be lucky to get anything better than 4/5.
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle up at Newcastle has been a fair Champion Hurdle guide in recent years and despite only 4 runners we had last season's Supreme Novices' and Triumph Hurdle winners doing battle in the shape of Cinders and Ashes and Countrywide Flame, with the last-named getting the better of the argument by 12 lengths. The McCain team said that on better ground they would be confident of a reversal of form, but Cinders and Ashes had won twice before on heavy ground and although I agree with them to a degree let's not forget Countrywide Flame's Triumph Hurdle win came on good ground last March too.
After the race we saw Flame's Champion Hurdle odds come into 12/1 and Cinders' out to 16/1. We should hopefully see Darlan, Rock On Ruby and Zarkandar in action at Cheltenham later this month so we'll know more about that trio in the coming weeks too, but at this stage the 9/1 on offer about last year's winner Rock On Ruby looks a fair price for a horse that is yet to finish out of the first two from 4 runs at Cheltenham.
Looking ahead to this week and I've already mentioned the John Durkan Memorial on Sunday over in Ireland as a race that could give us plenty more Gold Cup clues, while the domestic action centres around Sandown this week and in particular the Tingle Creek Chase. We should get a chance to see last year's Arkle winner Sprinter Sacre make his seasonal reappearance there and enhance his already short odds for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, while, if you like your trends I've highlighted a few things to look out for ahead of Saturday's big race below....
Tingle Creek Trends
10/10 - Finished in the top 3 in their previous race
10/10 - Priced 6/1 or shorter
9/10 - Won a Grade One chase previously
9/10 - Aged 9 or younger
8/10 - Went onto run in that season's Champion Chase
8/10 - Rated 165 or higher
8/10 - Priced 5/2 or shorter
8/10 - Favourites placed
8/10 - Winning distance - 3 lengths or more
7/10 - Won their last race
7/10 - Had run within the last month
7/10 - Trained by Paul Nicholls
7/10 - Aged between 5-8 years-old
7/10 - Won by a French bred
7/10 - Won at least 4 times over fences previously
6/10 - Favourites that won (1 joint)
6/10 - Won a chase race at Sandown previously
3/10 - Ridden by Ruby Walsh
2/10 - Ridden by Barry Geraghty
2/10 - Won the Champion Chase (Master Minded & Moscow Flyer) at the Cheltenham Festival that season
1/10 - Won the Gold Cup (Kauto Star) at the Cheltenham Festival that season
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 9/4
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