Road to Cheltenham: Royale Pagaille and First Flow boost their chances with impressive wins
Our man David Stevens takes us through the latest market moves for Cheltenham
With a roll of honour that includes Little Owl, Bregawn, The Thinker and Jodami, Haydock’s Peter Marsh Chase is no stranger to hosting a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.
It’s been 28 years since the last named of that quartet triumphed in jumping’s Blue Riband. However, Royal Pagaille’s facile victory in the latest renewal of the race, under top weight no less, certainly impressed the Coral odds compilers.
His Gold Cup odds have been slashed to 10/1, down from 50/1, meaning there are now only five horses ahead of him in the big race betting. It’s easy to forget Royale Pagaille, who sports the well-known Rich Ricci silks, is still a novice.
He can also be backed at 8/1 (from 16/1) for the Festival Novices’ Chase – the race formerly known as the RSA Chase – and 4/1 (from 12/1) for the National Hunt Chase, but whichever race connections choose to aim this 7-year-old at, he looks sure to be a major player.
Haydock’s other feature race on Saturday was The New One Hurdle. Just three runners lined up for the Grade 2 prize, but with dual Champion hurdler Buveur D’Air among the trio, it promised more Festival clues.
The odds-on favourite could finish only second to Navajo Pass, who hasn’t been entered in the Champion Hurdle.
While there was some encouragement to take from his first run back after a long injury lay-off, unchanged Champion Hurdle odds of 12/1 suggest he faces an uphill task to win the race for a third time in March.
Ascot was the venue of the day’s only Grade 1 prize, the Clarence House Chase. With last year’s winner, Defi Du Seuil, the reigning Champion chaser and Tingle Creek victor, Politologue, and the recent King George runner-up, Waiting Patiently, among the eight lining up for the two-mile showpiece, more Festival clues were expected.
Those clues were indeed delivered, although perhaps not by the runners the market expected. The trio all had to give best to 14/1 chance First Flow, but there was no fluke about this rapid improver’s triumph, and he fully deserved his Queen Mother Champion Chase odds being cut to 12/1 (from 33/1).
An earlier winner at the Berkshire track, Roksana, made light work of her three rivals in the Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle. She’s now 8/1 (from 12/1) to repeat her 2019 victory in the Cheltenham Mares’ Hurdle, which is perhaps a more likely option than taking on Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in the Stayers’ Hurdle, for which she can be backed at 9/1 (from 14/1).
Finally, the opening winner at Ascot, smart Flat horse Tritonic, took time to warm to his task on his hurdles debut but ultimately did enough to see his Triumph Hurdle odds shorten to 14/1 (from 20/1).
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.