With the Cheltenham Festival fast approaching the news with regard to the fancied runners is coming in thick and fast, and some of the better warm-up performances are having a significant impact upon the ante-post betting markets.

Those looking to get free bets should note how the latest horse to see its ante-post odds shrink following an impressive victory is Zarkandar.

The smart Paul Nicholls-trained four-year-old is scheduled to challenge for the JCB Triumph Hurdle and has been subject to some interest from professional gamblers over the past few weeks.

However, a superb victory by the solid bay gelding on his hurdles debut at Kempton seems to have had a major influence on both the bookmakers and armchair punters, with the ante post prices shortening from around 25/1 into 12/1, and is now largely available at shorter odds with 8/1 the best widely available price.

The half-brother to the unbeaten Arc winner Zarkava put in a magnificent run beating eight good challengers in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton and the run was supported by Nicholls claiming that the horse had plenty more work to do at home before going to the annual renewal event over 2m 1f on March 18.

Another horse that has shortened in the betting markets is the Willie Mullins-trained Zaidpour. The horse holds entries for both the Neptune Investment Hurdle and the Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Whilst initially expected to contest the former race the money seems to be coming in for the prospect of victory in the latter. The professionals have noted the horse as a stable favourite and much is expected at Cheltenham.

Whilst these market movements can sometimes be safely ignored it appears that the smart money is starting to lump on for the Festival and shrewd punters will take note.

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