Testing ground at Leopardstown last weekend proved a great leveller for many horses with Cheltenham aspirations, and the markets tumbled in many directions before settling once more in the last couple of days.
One such disappointment came in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, when Triumph Hurdle Ivanovich Gorbatov had to settle for fourth place behind three Willie Mullins-trained horses, headed by Footpad.
The defeat wasn’t entirely unexpected, and the shrewd layers were willing to take a chance against Aidan O’Brien’s gelding on ground that would not have played to his strengths. Had that race been run later on the card, and punters had the opportunity to see just how demanding the conditions were, I suspect he would have drifted to odds bigger than his starting price of 8-13.
In the race itself he never looked entirely at ease, despite which he was little more than three lengths off the pace turning for home.
When the front three moved away approaching the last, jockey Barry Geraghty was not hard on the favourite. That is likely to stand to Ivanovich Gorbatov, whose connections felt the horse only just got away with the ground at Christmas.
The best of his three runs on the flat came on good-to-firm going, and with blinkers applied for the first time.
With the option to re-apply the headgear at Cheltenham, where the ground, we can assume, will be considerably better, all is far from lost with the horse. The impression of his hurdling debut remains, as does his potential.
Happy to forgive last weekend’s defeat, those who missed the big prices prior to last weekend could see this as an opportunity to avail of them once more.
He drifted to 10-1 in a place, but has since been quite well supported and is a more realistic 5-1 chance. If all goes to plan between now and the Friday of the Festival, he will have leading claims.
Bellshill’s sub-par display in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle wasn’t just a body-blow to those who backed him for the Neptune Novices Hurdle.
If the markets are to be believed, it was also a death-knell for punters who backed the fellow Graham and Andrea Wylie-owned Yorkhill for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
No bigger than 8-1 for the Supreme prior to Saturday’s race, the latter is now available at double those odds, while his price for the Neptune has contracted to 7-1 in places (10-1 still available).
In the Albert Bartlett market Bellshill has shortened to 14-1 with one firm, which suggests last weekend’s performance was a reasonable reflection of his ability.
I can’t accept that. More likely, the move for Yorkhill in the Neptune suggests Bellshill may be given plenty of time to get over whatever ailed him last weekend, and that could mean missing Cheltenham altogether.
In the Gold Cup, rumour has it Bryan Cooper may take the ride on Don Poli, rather than Don Cossack. Don Cossack is currently vying for favouritism with Vautour, while Don Poli is a couple of points bigger.
If such rumours are confirmed as true, what impact would it have on the market, and could it be exploited?
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