SIRE De Grugy finally looked like a Cheltenham Festival winner in waiting at Ascot on Saturday. His leap at the third last was memorable and the way he scythed through the heavy ground to ease clear of Hidden Cyclone was one of the most impressive sights of this Jumps season so far. If the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase was anywhere but Cheltenham then 2/1 would look good value. But there remains a doubt about his effectiveness around the contours of Prestbury Park.
He also really needs soft ground to shine. If the ground is good at Cheltenham on March 12 I will be avoiding him like the plague. BetVictor have also eased Sprinter Sacre to 4/6 but the “Black Aeroplane” remains the big race sponsor’s warm favourite to successfully defend his crown.
There are not many tougher mares in racing than Highland Retreat and she was cut to 14/1 for the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham after an admirably gritty victory at Ascot. Connections said afterwards that the Festival is unlikely because she badly needs soft ground. However if the rain gods smile on her then she could be interesting if she runs.
Champagne West was another impressive Ascot winner and Sarah Hobbs, wife of trainer Philip, said he was being aimed at the Pertemps Final at the Festival, although he needs to go up about 5lb to stand a good chance of getting in.
At Haydock there was a lot to like about the victory of Benvolio. Paul Nicholls’ young chaser is as tough as nails and progressive. He is in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham but may be of more interest if he is aimed at one of the handicaps.
Talking of the JLT, Taquin Du Seuil’s victory at Haydock told us nothing new. But he could not have done it much easier and despite a mistake at the second last he jumped pretty well. BetVictor have cut him to 8/1 behind their 6/1 joint favourites Oscar Whisky and Champagne Fever.
It was great to see that Melodic Rendezvous has got his mojo back following injury. Jeremy Scott’s stable star was a comfortable winner of the Champion Hurdle Trial and he has been one of the biggest movers. He was initially cut by BetVictor from 50s to 33/1 following Saturday’s success for the Champion Hurdle but after a slew of cash he is now into 20s, which still looks a generous each-way price under their Non Runner No Bet offer on the four Championship races. But he needs soft ground and would only become a genuine each-way contender if the heavens open before March 11.
BetVictor are also repeating their excellent Non Runner Free Bet on the Cheltenham Festival betting market. For more details click here