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Cheltenham Open Meeting Market Movers
19/11/12

The Open Meeting at Cheltenham this past weekend not only provided three days of great entertainment, with the Paddy Power Gold Cup being the feature race, but it was the first opportunity of the new National Hunt season to see a number of stars of Jumps Racing set out on the road to the Cheltenham Festival, some familiar names lined up and some rising stars amongst the Novice ranks caught the eye, here we take a look at those who excited the most.

Al Ferof
© Racehorse Photos

Al Ferof

The Paddy Power Gold Cup was a terrific renewal that had attracted a high quality field and which was won by the Paul Nicholls trained and Ruby Walsh ridden, Al Ferof, the 2011 Supreme Novice Hurdle winner. Having drifted in the betting before the race, confidence appeared to wane amongst many punters although those that listened to Nicholls bullish reports about his seven year old’s progress would not have been disappointed with the 8/1 starting price as he romped home by three lengths ahead Walkon from the Alan King yard in second. The front two had gone some way clear of the rest of the field, suggesting that both look capable of further wins this season.

The 7/4 favourite, Grands Crus, appeared to be travelling well under jockey, Tom Scudamore, but once in position to strike for home, he was unable to rally. It later transpired that he had lost a shoe which is why Scudamore pulled him up two fences from home and whilst it would have disappointed all those who had hoped for a big run, this form can be ignored and he still remains an exciting prospect over fences. Hunt Ball was another who disappointed with his trainer, Kieran Burke, claiming that the ground was the reason why he was pulled up and the questions about how much more improvement he is open to after rising 88lb in the handicap over the last 12 months remains unanswered.

Paul Nicholls confirmed that Al Ferof will now had to Kempton Park on Boxing Day and bid to replace the recently retired stablemate, Kauto Star, as the new star of the prestigious Grade One Chase. As a result of his win, Al Ferof was installed in the King George market at odds of 8/1, disputing second favouritism behind Long Run. Meanwhile, Grands Crus still remains a 12/1 shot for the race on Boxing Day and his trainer, David Pipe, is likely to run his charge ahead of that engagement, possibly in the Hennessy Gold Cup on 1st December at Newbury.

Dynaste
© Racehorse Photos

Dynaste
Another eye-catching performance at the meeting came from by another David Pipe runner, Dynaste, who made a very successful debut over fences having been highly respected as a staying hurdler. The six year old won the Steel Plate and Sections Novice Chase over 2m4f by over four lengths from the very highly regarded Phillip Hobbs entry, Fingal Bay. Dynaste was in receipt of 5lb from Fingal Bay but showed enough ability for Pipe to suggest that he would be confident of a repeat performance off level weights. They both have the RSA Chase as their season’s target and it is Dynaste who is the current joint-favourite (along with Boston Bob) at 8/1 (from 14/1 before Friday's race) with Fingal Bay heading in the opposite direction from 8/1 to now a best price 12/1 in the RSA antepost market.

Another mover in the RSA Chase market was David Pipe's chasing debutant, Our Father, who demolished six rivals in the Rewards4racing Novices Chase, winning by 20 lengths ahead of race favourite, Sire Collognes in second. The manner of the win was enough to force Stan James to slash the odds of Our Father winning the RSA from 33/1 to 10/1!

Dodging Bullets
© Racehorse Photos

Dodging Bullets
The Paul Nicholls trained Dodging Bullets was another nice winner on day one of the meeting, landing the Grade Two, Sharp Novices Hurdle, which made it two from two over course and distance this season for the juvenile but due to the reluctance of any of the jockeys to take up the running, it wasn't a truly run race. Nonetheless, Dodging Bullets seems to be a much better horse than the current 14/1 on offer about him winning the Supreme Novices Hurdle suggests.

Whilst Dodging Bullets was the Nicholls representative in last year’s Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, this year he could well saddle Far West who was a very impressive seven lengths winner of the Grade Two Triumph Hurdle Trial at this meeting on Saturday. The win gave the three year old his second win of the season and a quotes as short as 8/1 favourite for the 2013 Triumph Hurdle.

Captain Conan
© Racehorse Photos

Captain Conan
Elsewhere, Nicky Henderson's Seven Barrows yard seems to be overflowing with quality young chasers currently and after the Grade Two Arkle Trophy Challenge Trial Novices Chase on Sunday, punters should add another to the list. Captain Conan went off as the 11/10 favourite and did not disappoint, winning comfortably by two lengths from Sire De Grugy a debut winner over fences last month at Kempton.

There was plenty to like about Captain Conan who will follow in the footsteps of Sprinter Sacre and was trimmed from 10/1 to 7/1 for Arkle success. His next assignment will likely be the Grade Two, William.com Novices Chase, at Kempton Park at Christmas.

Sprinter Sacre’s absence at Cheltenham meant that the Phillip Hobbs trained Wishfull Thinking finally found himself back in a winners enclosure after an 18 month absence. He made short work of his five rivals in the Scloer Chase over two miles, winning by 18 lengths, despite blundering badly at the first fence. Darlan’s absence became the gain of Tom George’s Olofi, who won the Grade Three, Racing Post Hurdle. Olofi kept on stoutly to win at odds of 8/1 and the Coral Cup will be the likely target come March.

Training Honours at the meeting went to Nicholls and Pipe who both saddled four winners, whilst top jockey was Walsh, also with four wins.

Information and odds quoted for antepost races taken from www.cheltenham-festival.co.uk.


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