The countdown to the Cheltenham Festival is almost over! There are less than two weeks to go until the famous Prestbury Park meeting gets underway in the Cotswolds and jumps racing fans all over the United Kingdom and Ireland will be eagerly anticipating the minute the racecourse reopens its gates to spectators for the Festival after a two-year absence thanks to the global coronavirus pandemic.
While the more avid punters will have already used their Cheltenham sign-up offer to get the best value out of the ante-post markets, it’s not too late to use yours. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at four horses who could stand out as the cream of the crop at this year’s Festival. Read on to find out more!
‘The Queen of Knockeen’, there’s no doubt that Honeysuckle will once again be the star of the show on Champions Day (day one). The eight-year-old just oozes pure class and brilliance, as displayed twice at the Festival already — winning the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle in 2020 and the opening card’s feature by over six lengths clear of Sharjah last year.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained horse has extended her unbeaten streak to 14 over fences with an additional two top-level wins this year and the Champion Chase will victory number 15 on her glittering CV. You can’t be the main attraction, and not be a standout horse!
Looking to have an equally as big impact as Honeysuckle on Ladies’ Day (day two), Shishkin will be hoping that his unbeaten chasing record remains intact after the Queen Mother Champion Chase — the feature race on the second day of the Festival. It’s a contest that everybody is looking forward to, with the Nicky Henderson-trained horse and Energumene set to reignite their rivalry after Shishkin won a fantastic renewal of the Clarence House Chase at Ascot back in January. The eight-year-old proved any doubters wrong that day and a second victory over the Willie Mullins-trained horse will only help his stock rise further in the chasing division.
It was only a matter of time before a horse from Mullins’ famous Closutton yard featured as one of our standout selections, and it’s no other than defending Ryanair Chase champion Allaho!
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned eight-year-old breezed his way around the new course last year to win the Festival Trophy by a comfortable 12 lengths clear of Fakir D’ouadairies and the general consensus is that history is about to repeat itself on St. Patrick’s Day (day three) — with the traveling Irish roaring Allaho and their beloved Rachael Blackmore home in the Ryanair Chase. It’s a shame that these three championship races aren’t looking a bit more competitive, but you can take nothing away from the quality of these horses!
While the three aforementioned horses will certainly come as no surprise on this list, the same argument can’t be said about Jonbon. The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle looks set to be one of the most exciting races of the Festival, but one of the most competitive at the same time with so little to separate Constitution Hill, Dysart Dynamo, Sir Gerhard, and Jonbon in the ante-post market.
However, we are backing the latter to upset the others and make a name for himself despite being the fourth favorite. The six-year-old has built quite the fanbase already, winning all three of his races over hurdles — two of which were at Grade 2 level. He’ll rise to superstardom if he can win the Supreme though!