The road to cheltenham melon could provide a fruitful start to the festival

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We get this week's Road To Cheltenham underway with the action at the course itself on Saturday. Defi Du Seuil cemented his favouritism for Triumph Hurdle with a win at a price of [1.25] in the opener. It was hoped that we would get a better indication of his chances lining up against fellow Triumph Hurdle fancy Charli Parcs. Unfortunately, due to a late withdrawal of that horse it was an easy win for the Philip Hobbs-trained gelding and we didn't get a proper indication of how good he could be.


Defi Du Seuil has been backed at prices as high as [16.5] for the Triupmh earlier in the season, but Saturday's effort saw him cut from [7.4] in to [5.5] and punters feel enough to justify favouritism.


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Royal Vacation made a bold bid for his chances in the RSA Chase with an impressive eight length win in Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase. The seven-year-old has been going from strength to strength and after following up his win in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton at Christmas he has now gained some traction in the RSA Chase market.


Royal Vacation was available at a high of [95.0] earlier in the season but was readily available to back on Saturday morning at [70.0]. This price has been slashed by punters with his mark now hovering around [19.0] at the moment. Interestingly enough, the Colin Tizzard-trained chaser further enhanced the odds of Might Bite in the same race. Might Bite was roughly 10 lengths clear of Royal Vacation when he fell at the last at Christmas, Royal Vacation's win at the weekend has seen Might Bite's price for the RSA Chase cut from [12.0] to [8.6].


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Another horse who left a lasting impression at the weekend was the ever improving Harry Fry-trained Unowhatimeanharry, who continued his winning ways by seeing of a large field of challengers in Saturday's Cleeve Hurdle.


That's the ninth race he has won on the trot and connections will be bullish that he can continue this trend by taking the spoils at this year's World Hurdle. Having been backed at as a high of [60.0] much earlier in the season his price had been cut in to under [4.0]. Following his latest exploits however his price cut yet again in to [2.82], as he has confirmed himself as clear favourite.


Cole Harden and West Approach followed Unowhatimeanharry home in second and third on Saturday. This has seen the former's price cut from [50.0] in to [18.5] and the latter's crash from [190.0] in to his current price of [42.0].


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One of the biggest surprises of the weekend was Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack getting beaten by former Grand National winner Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase. The Tizzard-trained favourite went off at [1.48] and was matched in-running at as low as [1.02] before getting pipped in the final furlong by Many Clouds.


The result of the race was overshadowed by the sad news that Many Clouds collapsed and died just minutes after the race. Our thoughts are with connections of what was such a great horse after such devastating news.


The loss for Thistlecrack didn't go unnoticed however and although he is still clear favourite for the Gold Cup it saw his price drift from [2.42] out to his current price of [3.1]. He looked a little bit worrisome over the bigger obstacles on Saturday and the market has reflected this, many of his competitors have been cut as a result of this drift and this leaves the Gold Cup as far less of a forgone conclusion as it was expected to shape up to be.


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There were further festival hopefuls running out in Leopardstown on Sunday and it was the Willie Mullins-trained Melon who made the biggest impression of the bunch. He won his maiden hurdle race with some aplomb, seeing off his nearest rival by 10 lengths.


With the Supreme Novices' Hurdle having no standout favourite to date it was up to Melon to make a bold statement and that he did. The five-year-old gelding has seen significant support off the back of his win with his price being cut sharply from [10.0] pre-race to now hovering around [6.0]. This makes him favourite for the race and judging by his performance this weekend he just might be the Willie Mullins winner of the Supreme that people have been looking for.


Let's Dance, another Mullins hurdler followed up Melon with a victory in the next race at Leopardstown. She won the competitive Grade 2 Novice Hurdle by six lengths and punters have reacted by backing her for the Mare's Hurdle at the festival, her odds have been cut from [40.0] in to [19.5] to take the tough hurdle race at the festival.


Key Movers

Defi Du Seuil in the Triupmh Hurdle [7.4] in to [5.5]

Royal Vacation in the RSA Chase [70.0] in to [19.5]

Might Bite in the RSA Chase [12.0] in to [8.6]

Unowhatimeanharry in the World Hurdle [4.0] in to [2.82]

Thistlecrack in the Gold Cup [2.42] out to [3.1]

Melon in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle [10.0] in to [6.0]