Eye On Cheltenham Festival – 7th February

Sandown and Wetherby hosted the best of the English racing on Saturday, with plenty of Cheltenham hopefuls looking to build up form and fitness. See our Cheltenham Festival races tips for more information for the biggest week of jumps racing in the world.

Bristol De Mai was in impressive form again, leading from the front to win the Grade 1 at Sandown. The impressive five year old is still some way behind current favourite No More Hero’s in the RSA betting, but this win has seen his odds drift in from 25/1 with some bookies, to as low as 12/1.

The Handicap Chase earlier in the day was won in impressive fashion by Arthurs Oak, who held off a late challenge from Ulck Du Lin to win by a nose on ground that really didn’t suit. He’s moved in from 20’s to 16/1 for the Grand Annual.

There was a magnificent battles in the 1.15 Listed Race, with Connetable eventually edging out Rayvin Black. Connetable was one of the day’s biggest movers, pitching himself amongst the favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at 10/1 in most places, after being a 25/1 shot earlier in the week.

A solid performance from Blaklion saw him take victory in the only Graded contest at Wetherby. He cruised into the home straight in third place, but out-jumped and out-stayed his fellow runners, winning by 8 lengths. His odds for the RSA have come into around 10/1, and his clear staying power and jumping prowess could make him a bit of a surprise package.

There were also good wins for Sew on Target at Wetherby, as well as victories for Sandown specialist Le Reve, Akavit and Saddlers Encore, who hunted down long-time leader Yala Enki to win the other Graded Sandown race.

The big race action of the day was over in Punchestown, who boasted a packed Irish Gold Cup Day card, including four Grade 1 encounters. A win for 14/1 outsider Footpad kicked off what would be a meet full of shock winners, as he raced to a two and a half length win in the Juvenile Hurdle. His Triumph Hurdle chances have been given a big boost by this win, moving in from around 25’s to as low as 10/1 with most bookmakers.

Outlander became the first and only favourite of the day to win in the following Novices chase, seeing his odds for the RSA Chase come in from 20’s to leave him alongside Blaklion at a low price of 10/1.

John Kiely’s eye will be fixed on the Grand National for Carlingford Lough after this impressive spring finish. Valseur Lido was looking very good before that final fence and despite the fall, his Gold Cup odds have come in with most bookies, from a 50/1 also-ran to and 20/1 dangerous outsider.

Eye On Cheltenham Festival

Carlingford Lough after winning the Irish Gold Cup last year


With plenty of surprises, comes plenty of disappointment, and there were plenty of favourite throughout the day who didn’t live up to their heavy backing.

Noel Meade will have been very confused as to why his Gold Cup fancy, Road to Riches weakened so quickly over a trip and ground which should have suited. His odds for the Gold Cup have taken a bit of a nosedive because of this, drifting out from 10’s to 20/1.

Bellshill was 4/6 on to claim a fifth consecutive win, but he made a bad mistake early on and never really recovered, finishing in a distant third. He was as low as 10/1 to win the Albert Bartlett four days ago, he can now be snapped up at a very high price of 25/1.

The first favourite to go down in the Punchestown burial ground was Ivanovich Gorbatov, who also failed to live up to his overwhelming favouritism, weakening quickly to eventually finish ten lengths behind Footpad in fourth. Despite this poor run, he still remains the favourite for the Triumph hurdle, but his odds have drifted out slightly to 8/1.

Back in England, Peace and Co was looking to bounce back from a terrible Cheltenham reappearance in December, but it would have looked a bit like Deja-Vu for Nicky Henderson, as his five year old was way too keen to begin with and faded quickly to finish third. Last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner was as low as 7/1 for the champion Hurdle at the start of December, he can now be found at 25’s and 33’s.

It was a similar story for Bitofapuzzle at Wetherby, who went off ahead of Blaklion as the 9/4F. She tried to lead from the front, but her jumping was extremely erratic, before she finally clipped one of the fences, sending herself and Noel Fehily crashing to the ground. She was at 12/1 behind Annie Power for the Mares Hurdle at the festival, but now she can at around 16/1.

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