A few reputations were on the line over the weekend. Here’s who’s hot and who’s not as Cheltenham Festival 2014 approaches.
Last Instalment 8/1 from 25/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup
Anyone who thought the Cheltenham Gold Cup was a two-horse race between Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti better think again.
There’s a new challenger in town as Last Instalment slayed a decent field in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on just his second run after two years off through injury.
While Al Ferof fluffed his lines at Newbury on Saturday and could be re-routed to the Ryanair Chase, Philip Fenton’s runner made up for The Tullow Tank’s defeat earlier on the card to gives Ireland a credible Gold Cup contender with less than 30 days to go to the start of the festival.
While soft ground will almost certainly be needed for the horse with “glass legs” to withstand the 3m 2f last-day war the omens are decent. Sir Des Champs won this last year before finishing second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Vatour 7/2 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle
The Tullow Tank 9/1 for the Neptune Novices Hurdle
Judging by the reaction to Sunday’s defeat, the Tullow Tank’s connections seem to think that taking on Vatour again in the Supreme Novices Hurdle looks about as wise as giving David Moyes the United job.
Sunday’s winner is now 7/2 favourite from 12/1 to give Willie Mullins back-to-back Supreme Novice Hurdle wins after Champagne Fever out-battled My Tent or Yours up Cleeve Hill last year.
But the good news for those who still think the ‘Tank’ is a serious horse is that he’ll probably switch to the 2m 5f race on the Wednesday instead and is now a 9/1 chance from 12’s for that. The not so good news is the presence of reputed Mullins’ hot-pot Faugheen (7/2) at the head of the market.
Smad Place 7/1 & Ballycasey 4/1 for the RSA Chase
While the Irish challenge was busy sorting itself out, Alan King’s Smad Place proved that he’s as effective over fences as he was over hurdles in Newbury’s key RSA trial on Saturday.
Alan King’s runner was cut to 7/1 from 10s after giving Sam Winner a two-length beating at Newbury over 3m before Ballycasey won a three-runner race at Leopardstown and was slashed to 4/1 fav 24 hours later.
While Ballycasey has been as reclusive as JD Salinger with just four runs in the last 12 months, Smad Place has felt the white heat of battle at Prestbury Park having been placed in the last two World Hurdles. When push comes to more push up Cleeve Hill, this could yet be a factor.
Guitar Pete 10/1 from 33/1 for the Triumph Hurdle
Dessie Hughes’ stable won this race last season with Our Conor and look to have a serious contender in Guitar Pete who scooted away from this field in impressive fashion. Pete is now 10/1 from 33s for the Triumph Hurdle after bolting up in a time that was six seconds faster than Our Conor’s win last year.
With 2011 & 2012 winners Hisaabaat and Unaccompanied winning this before finishing second in the Triumph Hurdle, it augurs well for Guitar Pete’s and second placed Tiger Roll’s chances in a month’s time.
Ivan Grozny doubled in price after his Triumph challenge as he seemed to sink in the Leopardstown mud. No excuse has been offered as yet so 20/1 might still be a play – particularly on bettter ground come March 14.