By News Team
Last Updated: 5th December 2020
With just 100 days to go until the Cheltenham Festival, we spoke to our traders to get the latest on how the markets are shaping up ahead of the four biggest days of National Hunt racing of the year.
1. Are people betting much on the Festival this far out?
Yes! Cheltenham is as popular as ever and keeps us busy from the moment the season starts in mid-October. Many of the big guns have already been impressive and punters are keen to get the early ante-post value.
2. Envoi Allen (Marsh) and Shishkin (Arkle) look like this year’s ‘bankers’ – have they been popular?
They have been extremely popular and are already causing us some headaches – Shishkin was quoted at 10/1 for the Arkle after he won last season’s Supreme and Envoi Allen at 8/1 for the Marsh after his Ballymore win. Shishkin is now 6/4, while Envoi Allen is even shorter at 5/4.
3. Has there been much interest in the Gold Cup this far out, and if so, for who at what prices? Have any horses emerged as contenders for the race so far this season and how much of an impact did the withdrawal of Topofthegame have on the market?
This division has been a bit slow to take off this season, however the Gold Cup will always prove popular with punters. The horse we have laid most of this autumn by a long way is Minella Indo. He may not have been winning the strongest races, but he has been visually impressive and won them in style.
The withdrawal of Topofthegame a few weeks ago didn’t really shake things up too much. We are 6/1 Al Boum Photo with Santini, who runs this weekend, at 7/1. Minella Indo is 8/1, the same price as Champ. It looks very open at this stage.
4. Champion Hurdle – can anything put it up to Epatante and does the market speak strongly for her?
It’s not quite a one-horse market at this stage but the way she [Epatante] won it last year – and gave Barry Geraghty such a great send-off – suggests she will take all the beating again. She is very solid and we saw plenty of interest after she won the Fighting Fifth at the start of the month. She is 7/4 and plenty of punters have her in some lumpy multiple bets with the likes of Envoi Allen and Shishkin.
Honeysuckle would be interesting if she lined up. Henry De Bromhead’s mare has won all nine of her races and connections may well decide to switch her from the Mares Hurdle. She is 14/1 with us for the Champion Hurdle.
5. The Champion Chase looks wide open – is it a race to maybe find some ante-post value in?
With fragile horses like Altior and Chacun Pour Soi heading the market, you could argue that this is a race where you could find some ante-post value – Put The Kettle On and Rouge Vif were both well backed after their respective Cheltenham wins in recent weeks, Greaneteen has also been backed at fancy prices (40/1) before his Haldon Gold Cup win.
6. Which key races/trials are likely to change the market most over the coming months?
The big festivals at Kempton and Leopardstown over Christmas always feature key races. The whole season seems to focus on Cheltenham these days, but we should not forget the King George is a massive race in its own right, not to mention the multiple Grade 1s over in Ireland. After that, Cheltenham Trials Day at the end of January and the Dublin Racing Festival the week after are probably the most informative meetings.
7. Are there any dark horses that have been drastically cut or introduced at prices out of nowhere?
Dusart was an impressive winner on debut at Newbury, considering he had no bumper or point to point form – the 33/1 for him to win the Supreme didn’t last long. Energumene and Pencilfulloflead are two horses who could possibly have done better over hurdles but always looked like top-class chasers in the making. They have already made big impressions over fences in recent weeks and look high class chasers.
8. Based on bets placed, what would be the best nugget of information from the trading floor?
That the faith in Shishkin and Envoi Allen from punters knows no bounds…