Best Hot Tips for Cheltenham Festival 2021
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For many racing punters, the desire to locate the ‘hot tips’ for Cheltenham week can only grow between now and March 16th. In this piece, we look at some of the major Cheltenham contenders and give verdicts on their chances.
Appreciate It – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Willie Mullins’ record in the Festival opener (six wins) is outstanding and Appreciate It looks set to be the strong favourite this year after successive Grade 1 win in Ireland lately. However, even his own trainer has questioned his jumping ability and it’s worth recalling Appreciate It was turned over as a ‘banker’ in the Champion Bumper last spring.
Verdict: Appreciate It deserves to be favourite but this will be a much more significant test of his credentials and Harry Fry’s ultra-impressive Tolworth winner Metier is perhaps the value call on current prices.
Shishkin – Arkle Novices’ Chase
Last year’s Supreme Novices’ winner Shishkin remains perfect over fences after successive wins at Kempton and then Doncaster. Nicky Henderson’s charge is a fine jumper of a fence and has a major cruising speed, a potent combination for the Arkle. The Seven Barrows maestro has prepared the likes of Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and Altior to justify short-price favouritism in this race and holes are hard to find in Shiskin.
Verdict: Energumene has emerged as a credible threat from the Irish contingent but Shiskin does everything with such aplomb, he’s got to be the ace in the pack at this stage.
Honeysuckle – Champion Hurdle
Henry De Bromhead’s star mare made it a ‘Perfect 10′ when she retained the Irish Champion Hurdle recently under a sublime Rachel Blackmore ride. Some will quibble that they benefitted from the breaks in defeating Benie Des Dieux to win the Mares’ Hurdle last season, but the runner-up had ample opportunity to go by had she been good enough. Honeysuckle, at seven, is entitled to be still improving and recent evidence suggests that is the case.
Verdict: Last year’s winner Epatante has major questions over her now and the male challenge is surprisingly shoddy on paper. After waiting 32 years from Dawn Run to Annie Power in 2016, we could now have a third mare in six years winning the two-mile Championship. Blackmore and Honeysuckle can be the ‘Golden Girls’ in the Champion Hurdle with stamina a proven suit.
Monkfish – Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
Winner of the Albert Bartlett last year, Monkfish deals strongly in the all-important currency of Cheltenham Festival form and has looked every inch a star in the making this season for Willie Mullins and owner Rich Ricci.
Verdict: Once again at the Dublin Racing Festival, Monkfish swatted aside the challenge of old foe Latest Exhibition. There don’t appear to be any chinks in his armour and he can serve up more success in this three-mile novices’ chase.
Chacun Pour Soi – Queen Mother Champion Chase
It could be quite the Wednesday afternoon for Rich Ricci in Cheltenham should Monkfish be the starter before Chacun Pour Soi aims to land the Champion Chase. For one reason or another, he’s never made it to this meeting before – not dissimilar to Hurricane Fly for the Mullins yard, albeit earlier in his career. Chacun Pour Soi has been faultless in Ireland this season and has this race at his mercy.
Verdict: Altior and Politologue are former winners with questions to answer, while the likes of First Flow must confirm Grade 1 credential. This race has been viewed as the destiny for Chacun Pour Soi for some time and he’s unlikely to fluff his lines.
Envoi Allen – Marsh Novices’ Chase
As always, there remains an aura to any uneaten horse and Envoi Allen has become the poster-boy for jumps racing this season. Gordon Elliott’s charge is the torch-bearer for the increasing Cheveley Park Stud jumps crew and he has not been seriously tested at any stage in his sequence of wins.
Verdict: He won the Champion Bumper two years ago under a tidal-wave of late betting money and he had no issues carrying ante-post favouritism in the Ballymore 12 months ago. The doubters suggest he doesn’t win by far enough, the believers are convinced Envoi Allen does just what he needs to. He’s set to be the ‘Irish Banker’ and they’ve not disappointed too often in recent festival history.
Paisley Park – Stayers’ Hurdle
The 2019 winner could lay the blame for his shock reverse last March on a fibrillating heart condition. He appears to be over that now and he won the Grade 1 Long Walk at Ascot in December from young pretender Thyme Hill. The abandonment of Trials Day denied him a run in the Cleeve Hurdle and Emma Lavelle’s charge heads straight to this race.
Verdict: There was an inevitability to Paisley Park’s late collaring of Thyme Hill at Ascot before Christmas but it was a slender margin and Philip Hobbs’ improving youngster will relish this third act of their duel having come off best at Newbury previously (getting 3lb). It’s no two-horse race, with Roksana and Flooring Porter both viable each-way players and Benie Des Dieux a possible curveball entry. Paisley Park has a big challenge ahead to regain this crown.
Al Boum Photo – Cheltenham Gold Cup
He ended the Willie Mullins hoodoo when he won the Gold Cup in 2019 and Al Boum Photo retained his crown last March. His trainer has once more opted for a low-key build up, with one run at Tramore that left many underwhelmed on New Year’s Day. The form of his win last March is also open to questioning and wining three Cheltenham Gold Cups doesn’t come easy.
Verdict: It isn’t easy to put a finger on which rival will prevent Al Boum Photo getting himself snapped into history by winning the Blue Ribband for a third time, but the feeling certainly prevails that something will get in his way. Native River showed recently his flame still burns, while A Plus Tard, Minella Indo and Champ are forming a queue for a shot at the title. He’s clear favourite but there are enough alternatives to suggest Al Boum Photo can be knocked from prominence come March 19th.