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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Last week's five most important Cheltenham Festival developments

Leading light: Getabird enhances his Supreme claims with an impressive win in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle for Patrick and Willie Mullins at Punchestown
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Time to Get on?

Getabird was the most important Cheltenham contender in action last week – at least that's what the bookmakers and the history books would suggest.

Recent festival winners Mikael D'Haguenet, Vautour and Douvan all warmed up by taking the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown for Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci. So it was no surprise that there was such a significant reaction in the ante-post markets to the six-year-old's emphatic, sound jumping, smart-quickening nine-length victory.

He's favourite across the board for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, offered at no bigger than 4-1 anywhere – and quoted at just 3-1 in places.

Ante-post safety net 

The most important action of the week from a punter's point of view may have taken place in the office of a few bookmakers rather than on the racecourse.

Bet365, Sky Bet and Paddy Power are now going non runner no bet on all 28 races at Cheltenham, with William Hill offering 'non runner insurance' – you get your money back if your fancy misses the festival.

That's quite a safety net for ante-post backers, the meeting starts eight weeks on Tuesday and that's plenty of time for a horse to tread on a stone – or for their trainer to decide to aim at the National Hunt Chase rather than the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Thistlecrack: ruled out of the Gold Cup for the second year in a row

Thistlecrack and Death Duty ruled out

Bookmaker concessions may have come too late for those who backed either of the big names who were ruled out of Cheltenham last week.

Thistlecrack had been many shrewdies' ideas of a good each-way bet for the Gold Cup after an encouraging comeback fourth in the King George VI Chase at Kempton but he has suffered a stress fracture in a leg.

It's the second year in a row that the ten-year-old, an impressive King George winner in 2016, has been forced to miss Cheltenham.

Death Duty, who won the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in December and was a general 8-1 shot for the JLT Novices’ Chase, is out for the season due to injured ligaments.

Redicean and Waiting Patiently score at Kempton

Kempton was probably the place to be for any British racegoer looking for festival clues this weekend.

Redicean may not have impressed with his jumping in the juvenile hurdle but there was no arguing with the way he defied a penalty with an easy ten-length success and he looks an obvious JCB Triumph Hurdle contender.

Picking the Cheltenham target of Waiting Patiently is not so straightforward, as he's entered in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase – and will not run in either unless the ground is on the soft side.

But he looked very talented as he made it five from five over fences in the Listed 2m4f chase and is worth keeping an eye on wherever he goes.

Finian's Oscar: will be aimed at the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival

Tizzard eyeing Stayers' prize

The biggest change of festival plans in the last seven days concerned Finian's Oscar, who started the week a slightly disappointing novice chaser and ended it as a potential Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle winner.

Successful twice from four starts over fences this term, he is being switched back to hurdles by Colin Tizzard, starting off in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham later this month.

The six-year-old won twice in Grade 1 company as a novice hurdler and is a top-priced 12-1 for the Stayers' Hurdle.

Alan King also revealed that Yanworth has been given an entry in the Stayers' Hurdle and you can't beat 12 about his dual chase winner either.

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The most important action of the week from a punter's point of view may have taken place in the office of a few bookmakers rather than on the course
E.W. Terms
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