Less than a month to go now until the Cheltenham Festival and there were some top-class performances last week which led to movements in the ante-post markets, headlined of course by Shishkin bouncing back to form at Ascot.
For this week’s Cheltenham ante-post round-up, we shall start on Thursday though and there was a Group 3 Novice Hurdle which was the feature at Clonmel and it saw Monty’s Star gain his first win on his 5th start. It takes some doing to break your maiden tag in a graded event, but he clearly has a good engine and thrived for the step-up in trip to 3m. It was testing ground, but his half-brother Monalee handles good ground so that shouldn’t be an issue and he is now 10/1 for the Albert Bartlett with William Hill.
Shishkin back to his brilliant best
The Grade 1 Ascot Chase has been won by many top horses over the years and it looked like a fascinating clash on paper between last year’s winner Fakir D’oudaries, the in-form Pic D’Orhy and the top class on his day Shishkin. In the end, it turned into a bit of a possession as Shishkin was back to his best as he beat Pic D’Orhy by 16L. Things didn’t go well for him at Cheltenham last year in the Champion Chase when he was found to have a bone issue, but he did win the Arkle the year before. This season he is set to go for the Ryanair Chase and not surprisingly he is the new favourite for the race at 5/4 with Betfair.
Earlier in the week it was announced that last year’s Ryanair winner Allaho would miss this season’s Festival, but his trainer Willie Mullins might still be able to land the race and just before the Ascot Chase, he landed the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran with Janidil. He was 2nd to Allaho in the Ryanair last season and he got his career back on track here after failing to finish at Fairyhouse and Punchestown last year. Bet365 go 7/1 about him going one place better at The Festival next month.
At Haydock on Saturday Bo Zenith through his hat into the ring for the Triumph Hurdle next month when landing the Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle. He disappointed at Sandown on his previous start, but he bounced back here to win in a workmanlike style. He is 16/1 to land the Triumph Hurdle with Bet365.
Grand National trials provide Aintree clues
The big race on Saturday at Haydock was the Grand National Trial and ahead of the weights coming out on Tuesday, Quick Wave got the better of a tremendous battle with Snow Leopardess. She clearly stays well having also landed the London National at Sandown in December and she will be one of the leading British hopes for the Aintree contest. She is now 33/1 with William Hill for the race who are already going 5 places.
On Sunday Ireland had their own Grand National Trial at Punchestown and it was a Gordon Elliott/Gigginstown 1-2-3 as Coko Beach beat Death Duty and Defi Bleu. He has been running well all season and was a much-deserved success for Coko Beach. He is now 50/1 with William Hill for Aintree in April.
Another Mullins bumper winner
The biggest Cheltenham Festival clue at Punchestown came in the concluding bumper and it was that man Willie Mullins who yet again provided the winner in the shape of Ballyburn. He was keen early and looked beaten on the home turn so for him to have pulled this out of the fire says plenty about how much ability he has. Bet365 go 12/1 for the Champion Bumper next month and Mullins said after the race that he had booked a ticket for Cheltenham on the back of that win.
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