Last weekend saw more fascinating clashes on both sides of the Irish Sea, both the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown producing thrilling finishes which have affected both the two-mile and 2½-mile divisions of the Cheltenham Festival betting.
Defi On Top in Three-Way Battle at Sandown
After battling all the way to the line up the Cheltenham hill to beat Politologue, in receipt of weight of course, and having won last season’s 2½-mile JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival, Defi Du Seuil’s position at the head of the market for the two-mile Tingle Creek seemed a little vulnerable on Saturday given the need for more speed.
The JP McManus-owned horse did indeed prove to be a little weak in the market, having been as short as 11/8 in the build-up, Philip Hobbs’ six-year-old gelding eventually went off the 2/1 market leader ahead of stout old-timer Un De Sceaux (3/1) and Janika at 9/2.
A most fascinating contender was Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently (11/1) who was being tested for speed having previously been thought of as a staying type, and with Janika and Politologue having dropped away, a three-way battle emerged between Jefferson’s gelding, Un De Sceaux and Defi Du Seuil after the last fence.
After hitting the front, it appeared the favourite would go and take this race well, but in his usual style Barry Geraghty’s mount idled somewhat in the closes stages as Un De Sceaux battled back with Waiting Patiently staying on well.
At the line, Defi Du Seuil just held on in a thrilling finish to the big Grade 1 race of the day but it remains to be seen whether or not he will remain in the two-mile division or whether his trainer thinks a return to a longer trip may help.
Min Justifies Odds at Punchestown
Over in Ireland on Sunday it was the turn of Willie Mullins’ Min to attempt to justify favouritism, this time going off at a very restrictive 8/11 under Paul Townend in the John Durkan.
With stablemate Real Steel (11/2) showing signs of climbing the ranks and former Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy (10/1) returning to the fray though there was plenty of competition for the eight-year-old, a four-time Grade 1 winner previously including last year’s renewal of this event.
As it turned out his odds were just about right, Townend getting a big jump out of his mount with two to go having made virtually all, though he had to show his battling qualities close home when 25/1 outsider Hardline produced a challenge, eventually taking the €80,000 race by a convincing enough 2¼ lengths, Presenting Percy producing an encouraging run a further length back in third.
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Champion Chase and Ryanair Odds Fluctuate
With neither Presenting Percy nor Waiting Patiently having affected the Gold Cup odds, presumably as both horses will now remain at shorter trips, it was the two-mile Champion Chase and the 2½-mile Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham that were chiefly rearranged after these results.
John Durkan winner Min is 6/1 second-favourite for the Ryanair over what looks like his best distance, just behind Defi Du Seuil (4/1) who may yet go back up in trip, the Tingle Creek winner being as short as 7/2 but available generally at 4/1+ for the Champion Chase behind Altior (3/1) and Chacun Pour Soi (4/1).
Waiting Patiently, having done ever so well on his first try at two miles, is just 14/1 for the Champion Chase now and it seems that over time he could develop a higher cruising speed, his finishing kick making him very dangerous in this division in future and it could be that he is still underestimated at this level.