Paddy Power has stolen a march on their rivals and done ante-post players a huge favour by offering ‘Non-Runner No-Bet’ terms to their markets on the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and World Hurdle. These are the four races which top the bill on each and every day of the Festival.
It is a bold move by the Irish firm who have clearly taken the opinion that the ante-post markets on these races are likely to remain stagnant, with punters so unsure of the intended targets of so many Cheltenham Festival runners, unless they put the concession in place.
The chief culprit for the uncertainty about runners targets is Irish trainer Willie Mullins who has an embarrassment of riches that could be aimed at at least two Festival races and, in some cases, even three.
Annie Power is a case in point. The wonder mare who won last year’s Champion Hurdle has also run in the Mares Hurdle at the Festival and the World Hurdle. With no firm plans announced by connections, it is impossible to predict which race will be her 2017 target.
Paddy Power’s ‘Non-Runner No-Bet’ terms came into effect on January 12th, a full two months before the Festival gets underway, and the race where punters will benefit most is the Champion Hurdle.
The defending champion is one of five Willie Mullins representatives which occupies a place in the top eight of Paddy Power’s betting. The 2015 champion, Faugheen, who has not been seen in action since January 2016, is the current favourite.
Other contenders for the all-powerful Irish trainer are Nichols Canyon (the only horse to beat Faugheen in his 13 race career) and Yorkhill. This pair could most definitely be re-routed to the World Hurdle while Vroum Vroum Mag is fascinating as she too can stay three-miles over hurdles while she is unbeaten in six chase starts.
The race is a real conundrum and will probably remain so until a few days before the 2017 Cheltenham Festival gets underway. Therein Paddy Power’s current offer is simply huge. It’s unlikely to be their last either… Traditionally the popular firm offers an amazing concession on the opening race of the Festival whereby all stakes on all losers are returned if the favourite for this race, the Supreme Novice Hurdle, wins.
Min was turned over as market leader in contest in 2016 but Douvan (2015) and Vautour (2014) justified the favourite’s tag beforehand costing Paddy Power a pretty packet in the process.