Cheltenham market moves: Elliott and Russell team up with well-backed 4-1 chance
Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell make their returns to Cheltenham on Friday and they are being backed to strike with Top Bandit, who is 4-1 (from 13-2) with Sky Bet for the closing Foundation Developments Maiden Hurdle with (5.25).
Top Bandit was third on his hurdling debut at Limerick a fortnight ago and still finds himself behind the Olly Murphy-trained strong favourite Go Dante (6-4 from 15-8).
Money continues to flow for recent Warwick winner Found On in the Abu Dhabi Digital Exchange Handicap Hurdle (4.15) having halved in price to 7-2 (from 7s).
The Martin Keighley-trained six-year-old has joined Guard Your Dreams as joint-favourite with most firms for the 2m4f race and is in receipt of 19lb from his Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained rival.
Ireland could be set for another successful raid on Cheltenham with the John McConnell-trained Bardenstown Lad shortening to 9-4 favourite for the 888Sport What's Your Thinking Novices' Hurdle (3.05).
The six-year-old, who suffered a first reverse over hurdles at Navan last time after recording convincing wins at Wexford and Cartmel prior to that, opened at 11-2 with William Hill on Thursday but has been supported down since then to give the yard a second straight victory in the race.
Opposition to recent Persian War Novices' Hurdle winner Camprond in the opening Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (1.55) is hard to find and that has lessened since the Fergal O'Brien-trained All Clenched Up was declared a non-runner after being found to be lame.
The Philip Hobbs-trained runner is now 2-9 (from 2-7) to follow up his Chepstow success.
1.55: Camprond 2-9 (from 2-7)
3.05: Bardenstown Lad 9-4 (from 11-2)
4.15: Found On 9-2 (from 7)
4.15: Captain Morgs 6-1 (from 17-2)
4.50: Petite Power 12-1 (from 18)
4.50: Redford Road 6-1 (from 12-1)
5.25: Go Dante 6-4 (from 15-8)
5.25: Top Bandit 4-1 (from 13-2)
Ground dries to good before first day of the October meeting
The ground at Cheltenham has dried out slightly overnight to good (from good, good to soft in places) as the track opens its doors for the season and welcomes back spectators for the first time in 19 months.
The two-day meeting begins with a seven-race card starting with the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (1.55) and then followed by the most valuable race of the day, the £25,000 squareintheair.com Novices' Chase (2.30).
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: "It's been dry overnight and the going on the chase and hurdle courses is good all round. The forecast this afternoon is dry and a little cooler than we've seen over the last few days."
The only non-runner so far is the Gordon Elliott-trained Off Your Rocco (1.55) with a self-certificate. Elliott has four other runners with John McConnell and Eugene O'Sullivan also helping provide a strong challenge from Ireland.
A crowd of 10,000 is expected as Cheltenham throws open its gates in full for the first time since the last day of the 2020 festival.
"We're so excited to be welcoming back racegoers in unrestricted numbers for the first time in 19 months," said Claisse.
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