18 Feb 2019 - NEWSCHELTENHAM FESTIVAL STABLE TOUR: NICKY HENDERSON
Cheltenham Betting Odds Update: Josies backed to restore Order
Posted in: Cheltenham Festival News
The weekend’s action on this side of the Irish Sea was decimated by the equine influenza outbreak, with Betfair Super Saturday the most notable casualty in terms of Cheltenham clues – the list of big names who have completed their Festival preparations at Newbury in recent years is a lengthy one, with Altior and Native River becoming the latest to win at both meetings just last year.
There is still some big hope that the meeting’s big races might be saved, but, for now at least, we have only last week’s Irish action – and some fairly low-key stuff at that – to reflect on from a Cheltenham perspective.
The ITV cameras were at Naas on Saturday, where arguably the most notable performance of the day came in the opening novices’ hurdle. Admittedly, a seven-length success for 5/1-on favourite City Island didn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know about him, but his Leopardstown form over Christmas was boosted when the runner-up, Dallas des Pictions, won a handicap from a mark of 130 the previous weekend; with the prospect of more to come after just three starts over hurdles, City Island is certainly no back number for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, now no bigger than 12/1 (generally 9/1) for the opening contest on the Wednesday of Cheltenham.
The feature race on the card was the listed Opera Hat Mares’ Chase, in which Pravalaguna improved again to take her chase record to two wins from three starts, impressing with the way she attacked her fences, and having little trouble seeing off a couple of rivals who are at their best over a good bit further. Trainer Willie Mullins has mentioned both the Arkle and the JLT as potential targets at the Festival, and with further improvement on the cards, she would be a lively outsider for either contest, still as big as 40/1 in both cases.
Pravalaguna is a comfortable winner in the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Chase at @NaasRacecourse
It's a 3rd win in four years for @WillieMullinsNH
Watch LIVE on @ITV4 pic.twitter.com/3e76QT5DfE
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) February 9, 2019
The juvenile event that followed went the way of Band of Outlaws, yet another good prospect in this division for Joseph O’Brien. Improving in leaps and bounds, Band of Outlaws is clearly destined for better races before long, having seen off some fairly useful rivals with complete ease here, though his trainer expressed some reservations with regards his suitability to the Triumph Hurdle test (best up to 1m on the Flat); he can still the backed at 16/1 for that race, but heads the market for the Fred Winter at a general 8/1.
Stablemate Konitho was sent off the 11/10 favourite to win on Saturday, but ultimately proved disappointing bearing in mind the impression he created on his Irish debut, possibly finding the race coming too soon less than a fortnight on. He remains with potential, especially when getting a stronger pace to run at, and is a good bet to get back on the up in the Fred Winter, for which he is as big as 16/1 with some bookmakers.
Josies Orders won the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham in 2016, and he is now a general 6/1-shot to do so again this time round, having resumed winning ways in ready fashion at Punchestown on Sunday. Enda Bolger’s charge may be well into the veteran stage of his career, but he remains one of the very best this division has to offer and will be one of the likeliest dangers to Tiger Roll at the Festival (not at his best when sixth behind that rival last year).
It is another Cross Country Chase success for Josies Orders who goes one place better than last year in the P.P. Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase @punchestownrace.👏👏
Results ➡ https://t.co/7iJOPsdIyZ pic.twitter.com/vPIbvGTPqJ
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 10, 2019
Elsewhere at Punchestown, Take Revenge won the maiden hurdle but will likely be fighting for minor honours if joining stablemate City Island in the Ballymore, as the current odds of 66/1 suggest, while Riders Onthe Storm is trading at similarly fancy prices for the JLT after landing the novices’ chase. Dounikos, on the other hand, is more likely to miss Cheltenham altogether after winning the Grand National Trial, with Aintree and/or Fairyhouse reportedly his chief targets in the second half of the season.
Therefore, it was the performance of Sinoria in winning the listed novices’ hurdle that had the biggest impact on the ante-post markets for Cheltenham. Indeed, she is now as short as 8/1 for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle after a gutsy defeat of Chosen Mate, though, with the same combination already having Honeysuckle (ante-post favourite), she may well be tasked with tackling the geldings again; she is a general 33/1-shot for the Ballymore, her only other entry at the meeting as things stand. Chosen Mate, who conceded 7 lb to the winner, should have more to offer when going up in trip, and, of his three entries at Cheltenham, he is interestingly the shortest price for the Albert Bartlett at a general 25/1.
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