Cheltenham Festival Ante-Post Bets & Latest Market Movers

Cheltenham Festival Ante-Post Bets & Latest Market Movers
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An action-packed weekend of National Hunt racing threw up a host of outstanding performances that affected the 2022 Cheltenham Festival betting odds on the best horse racing betting sites.

Here’s our round-up of the main weekend movers and shakers from both sides of the Irish Sea.

Flawless Honeysuckle Returns in Style

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find new superlatives for Honeysuckle who made it 13 wins from 13 starts when returning to action with a ridiculously easy 8-length success in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Paddy Power’s immediate reaction was to make the superstar mare an even money chance to retain her crown at Cheltenham in March but the Irish firm were forced to cut that into 4/5 shortly afterwards which suggests there were plenty of punters out there that saw the even money as value.

Scarily for her Champion Hurdle rivals, Honeysuckle’s performance suggested she was better than ever - it was certainly a much stronger performance than 12 months ago when she beat Ronald Pump by half a length in the same Fairyhouse contest.

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Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle price is also a reflection of the apparent lack of depth in the Champion Hurdle division, a point emphasised up at Newcastle where Epatante looked well off the level required to be a Champion Hurdler in dead-heating with 152-rated Not So Sleepy in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

Paddy Power did cut Nicky Henderson’s mare from 14/1 into 10’s for the champion but she hasn’t got anywhere near the level of her 2020 Champion Hurdle success in five subsequent runs and her official rating of 154 doesn’t really suggest she should be winning a race like the Champion Hurdle again.

Not So Sleepy was given an opening 50/1 quote by Paddy Power for the Champion Hurdle. He just isn’t good enough to win a race like that even at his best.


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Statuaire Extends Mullins’ Strong Record in Royal Bond

Willie Mullins landed the Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle for a fifth time in the last decade when Statuaire got up in the final strides to collar My Mate Mozzie in the two-mile Grade 1 contest.

Mullins told the media afterwards that his mare will head to Leopardstown over Christmas before being targeted at the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, for which she was given an 8/1 quote by Paddy Power. That makes her joint-favourite with the Dan Skelton-trained Elle Est Belle who scooted up in a Listed hurdle at Newbury on Friday.

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Jonbon Looks the Real Deal

Jonbon could be the next top novice to come off the Seven Barrows production line after his 6-length maiden hurdle romp at Newbury on Friday.

Sure, it was ‘just’ a maiden hurdle and it might turn out that he beat little of substance, but that slightly misses the point. Jonbon, who cost £570,000 at Goffs in 2020, is a full brother to the top-class Douvan and he is now unbeaten in three starts having won a PTP and a bumper in taking style last year.

He settled nicely, jumped proficiently and had all of his rivals in trouble by the home turn having been allowed to stride on by Aidan Coleman.

Minutes after crossing the line he was installed as the new Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ante-post betting favourite by Paddy Power, who slashed him into 3/1 from 6’s. His trainer has won the festival curtain-raiser with Shishkin and Altior in recent years so Jonbon will be keeping very good company if he can follow suit.


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Darby Emerges as Stayers’ Hurdle Contender

The feature event on Friday’s Newbury card was the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle which featured four previous Cheltenham Festival winners, not least 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle hero Paisley Park who was sent off favourite in first-time cheekpieces.

However, it was Thomas Darby who stole the show, coming from off the pace to sweep to the front approaching the final flight and he now looks a genuine player in the three-mile hurdle division, starting with the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, which is likely where he will be seen next.

Thomas Darby was shortened in the Cheltenham 2022 betting into 16/1 from 40's by Paddy Power for the Stayers’ Hurdle but that particular race has a wide-open feel to it at this stage.