As far as habits go there are certainly worse ones to develop than sending out winners in the major Saturday races. Dorset handler Colin Tizzard won’t be in any hurry to give up his current run of success which continued at the weekend, this time in the novice hurdling division.
Hot on the heels of major triumphs from the likes of Cue Card, Native River and of course the mighty King George hero, Thistlecrack, the five year old Finian’s Oscar marked his arrival on the big stage with a power packed success in Sandown’s Tolworth Hurdle.
Now three from three in his career to date, at trips ranging from two to three miles, the impressive manner of this display has resulted in the gelding moving towards the top of the market for a number of the Cheltenham Festival Novice events. His versatility regarding the trip makes it tough to call exactly which Festival race he will turn up in at this stage, but those looking to get him onside early may want to consider taking the 9/2 available about Finian’s Oscar winning any race at this year’s Festival.
Turning back to Thistlecrack, who produced the performance of the season to date when cruising home in the King George, this week saw that display put into perspective by the official handicapper. Unsurprisingly the visual impact of that romp has now been backed up by the numbers, with the son of Kayf Tara being handed a mark of 171.
That makes him the highest rated novice in training and – encouragingly for those holding an ante post Gold Cup ticket – five pounds higher than Coneygree was when he won the Cheltenham showpiece as a Novice in 2015. Whilst he is undoubtedly a high class performer with bags of potential, he still has some way to go before he joins the pantheon of chasing legends; Kauto Star’s peak rating of 193 lends a little perspective to Thistlecrack’s current mark. The betting public are certainly behind him though as he continues to harden at the head of the Gold Cup betting market; the 11/10 is the best on offer at present, with a number of firms now going odds on.
Of the other major Cheltenham events, the Champion Hurdle picture is perhaps the murkiest at present, with market leaders Annie Power and Faugheen yet to grace the track this season.
Things may become a little clear after the 29th January however, when the Willie Mullins pair are set to clash in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Take a look at our Irish Champion Hurdle betting offers and tips for the lowdown on that. The main Irish development of the past weekend as far as Cheltenham Festival betting is concerned, came with the continuing ascent of the Gordon Elliott trained Death Duty.
Now three from three over hurdles, his first crack at Grade 1 company in the Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas resulted in a 9l success. In truth he may have been a little flattered by the margin of victory as Augusta Kate looked set to at least give him a race before departing at the final flight. The compilers are nevertheless taking evasive action with the five year old now no bigger than 5/2 in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle betting.