Next year’s World Hurdle has a new market leader in Unowhatimeanharry but the overall picture isn’t perhaps as clear as the market currently suggests.
Harry Fry’s charge brought up a magnificent seven victories under the young trainer’s tutelage and he certainly looked impressive enough.
Well, at least that’s the conclusion we’re drawing from what we could make out such were the conditions at Ascot on Saturday. But more on that later.
Harry doing the business for his namesake was just one of a few news lines to emerge on the Road to Cheltenham.
Here’s our take on the latest developments…
World Hurdle picture still isn’t clear, if you know what I mean?
Like the fog at Haydock and Ascot, it’s not an entirely clear picture in the World Hurdle market, despite the Long Walk Hurdle victory of Unowhatimeanharry.
The Berkshire hero has been cut from 5/1 to 5/2 favourite for the Festival but there are still a number of questions that need answering before we take a firmer view.
Such as, who else is likely to line-up for the Championship race?
Faugheen is next best at 4/1 while stablemate and recent Morgiana Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon is a 5/1 shot. Or Willie Mullins could field 8/1 chance Vroum Vroum Mag. A lot could depend on how the Closutton handler decides to unleash his stars.
Meanwhile, Silsol got the better of Native River, Long Walk runner-up Lil Rockerfeller and Ballyoptic at Wetherby in October. That represents decent form but Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old is a 25/1 outsider.
One thing is for sure, there’s plenty more twists and turns to come before we go steaming in.
Another ace novice emerges from Seven Barrows
A three-and-a-quarter length victory at Haydock confirmed the fact that Nicky Henderson has another bright prospect up his sleeve heading into next year’s Festival.
Buveur D’Air is now just 8/1 for the Arkle (was 14/1) following his debut win over fences with stablemate Altior the 7/4 market leader.
Henderson has stressed how keen he is to keep the two apart until next spring for what would be a repeat of last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle where the latter came out on top and the former finished third.
If the pair can continue to impress over the larger obstacles then it’ll be a sequel well worth waiting for.
Gigginstown left giddy as Death dutifully hacks up
Death Duty is now the clear 3/1 favourite to land the 2017 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle with Sunday’s convincing win at Navan a clear indication of the five-year-old’s credentials.
In doing so the Gigginstown runner brought up another win for trainer Gordon Elliott and handed rival Willie Mullins a bloody nose.
Mullins’ previously unbeaten Invitation Only was sent off as the even-money favourite but could only finish third.
He deserves another chance but for now all the talk surrounds the Albert Bartlett jolly.
However, don’t rush in too quickly as the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle also remains an option.
Coneygree, Thistlecrack and a few massive Gold Cup clues
Just to round things off…
Coneygree is out of the King George, Josses Hill will take his place as the frontrunner while it’s also now confirmed that Colin Tizzard will run Thistlecrack alongside Cue Card.
That rather pithy statement of facts ensures you’re up-to-date but doesn’t even begin to explain the possible ramifications of this year’s blockbuster King George VI Chase.
As far as the RTC is concerned, we’ll have to wait and see what happens at Kempton this Boxing Day.
The clues offered up will undoubtedly shape the Cheltenham Gold Cup market for which Thistlecrack remains the 7/2 favourite.
We can’t wait for what’s in store.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing