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Cheltenham Festival Preview

A couple of months ago we picked out some horses to follow for the opening day of the Cheltenham festival. With the National Hunt season now in full swing we thought we’d revisit that post and add some other horses for your tracker who we think could go well in March.

It looks almost certain that Gordon Elliot’s Envoi Allen will win at Cheltenham but the big question is what race? Yesterday, at Fairyhouse, he defeated Abacadabras – who himself is an impressive animal – over the bare two mile trip which made many wonder if he will be aimed for The Supreme Novices Hurdle which is the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival. Whilst we’ve not seen all the likely contenders run, horses like Andy Dufresne for example, it looks like Envoi Allen’s only real competition would come from the horse he defeated in the Champion Bumper last year; Willie Mullins’ Blue Sari. Gordon Elliot has often taken his star novices down the Ballymore route (think Samcro) maybe because in years past it’s slightly less competitive? Either way, Envoi Allen looks to have a huge future and once betting sites offer NRNB (money back if horses don’t go for that race) then expect his odds to crash.

Speaking of impressive performances that takes us to Laurina who pulverised a good field including last years Albert Bartlett winner Minella Indo and seemed to win with masses in hand. It’s still hard to shake her disappointing Champion Hurdle performance but with the 7lbs mare allowance that she receives she could be hard to stop and Mullins has dominated recent renewals of the Arkle having won four of the last five. Her main danger comes in five year old Fakir D’oudaries trained by Joseph O’Brien who saw off Samcro yesterday at Fairyhouse but many felt Samcro would’ve won the race had he not fallen at the penultimate fence. The Arkle, featuring those three, is shaping up to be a classic and when you add in Ballymore winner City Island into the mix it wouldn’t be a surprise should this be the race of the festival. It’s hard to get away from Laurina but Samcro at 12/1 is very interesting if he decided not to go to the JLT which is his rumoured destination.

Last year’s Arkle

Buveur D’Air was seen off in dramatic fashion in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle at the weekend and so the Champion Hurdle has become even more wide open with any one of a dozen seemingly in the mix to go off favourite for the race. Buveur D’Air sadly suffered a season ending cut. The mare Honeysuckle, running yesterday at Fairyhouse, destroyed Apple’s Jade and beat the useful Bacardy’s. She won over 2 and a half miles rather than two but she seemed to travel well and could be a lively one at the price to take this Grade One on the Tuesday at Cheltenham. She’s also second favourite behind Benie Des Dieux to win the Mares. Other Champion Hurdle candidates include Sadlier who defeated current ante post favourite Klassical Dream. Both are Willie Mullins who clearly knows how to win the race. Last years Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills also makes some appeal but he’s yet to be seen this season so is difficult to judge where he’s at compared to these other horses. Either way, this is the weakest Champion Hurdle in many a year but it is also the most wide open.

Champ didn’t jump with enormous fluency when in action at Newbury and suffered a late scare on the run in but he did win the race and seemed to win with a bit in hand. Off the back of that many firms clipped his price in to around 3/1 to win the RSA Chase. Again, it will largely depend where other horses, such as Samcro, end up going to know if that’s a good price or not but he’s certainly a horse with a future and given his owner and the name of the horse you must think they thought he was a bit special. Battleoverdoyen for Gordon Elliot won on his first start out this season and did it well and he’s likely going to be the one that gives Champ the most to think about.

After Altior lost to Cryname many feel he will come back in trip and so is the ante post favourite for the Champion Chase, a race he’s won for the last three years. However, Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci seem to have unearthed a diamond in Chacun Pour Soi and he’s likely to run Altior (should he run) very close indeed. Defi Du Seuil is also aimed at the race and McManus and co have long thought he was a champion chase horse in the making. Add the likes of Douvan, who appeared to be back with some of his old vigour, and Footpad and the Champion Chase looks to be a seriously competitive renewal. It’s almost impossible to call but Chacun Pour Soi looked the real deal last time out.

Will Altior win again?

Who can forget last year’s Ryanair when Bryony Frost piloted Frodon to an emotional victory. The team are 12/1 to repeat the feat this year and the race again looks sure to deliver in terms of quality and drama with Defi Du Seuil, Douvan, Cryname and Min all heading up the betting. Defi Du Seuil may go this route if Altior opts to go for the Champion Chase whilst the same can be said for Douvan. Cryname needs to be able to go left handed and if he can then the highest rated chaser racing today would surely be impossible to beat? Min is always the bridesmaid in the Champion Chase so maybe Mullins and Ricci will have a crack over further? Either way, it’s shaping up to be another classic but at the moment we’re siding with Cyrname who jumped straighter at Ascot two weeks ago and jockey, Harry Cobden, thinks that he has a Cheltenham win in him.

The Stayers Hurdle looks sure to be going to Paisley Park who can back up his win from last year. Despite giving Thistlecrack 6lbs he still beat him at the weekend and took care of The World’s End and Youknowwhatimeanharry with relative ease. After the race Aiden Coleman said he felt better than ever and you just can’t see what can beat him.

The four days build up to the climax that is the Gold Cup and it’s shaping up to be something quite special. Last season’s winner, Al Boum Photo will be back to defend his crown. The favourite though had been Willie Mullins’ other horse, Kemboy. However, at the time of writing Kemboy still hasn’t been seen this year due to the collapse of the syndicate that owns him. The hope is that he can run before Christmas and should he run to form then he’d likely be reinstated as favourite because he looks a seriously classy operator. The current market leader is Lostintranslation who beat Bristol De Mai so impressively at Haydock two weeks ago. Colin Tizzard has won a Gold Cup recently and the talk is that this impressive chestnut will secure Tizzard’s second triumph in the race. He travels powerfully and is an economical jumper so it’s clear why he’s been installed as market leader. Santini is often talked about as a Gold Cup horse and whilst we’ve not seen him yet it would be foolish to rule him out. Cyrname and Altior aren’t guaranteed to run whilst Presenting Percy, as ever, remains wrapped in cotton wool. A lively outsider might be Faugheen at 33/1 who’s gone chasing for the first time this year and won well on debut. If he were to win it would surely be the greatest of all racing stories?

Could Faugheen spring a shock?

The Cheltenham Festival is shaping up to be another cracker and if you want hospitality for the event just get in touch with us!

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