Cheltenham Festival 2020
Author: Jordan Yates
“The Cheltenham Festival is merely a few weeks away and I’m getting my first preview out there for Day 1 of the March showpiece at Prestbury Park by looking at some punts on the main races on the opening Tuesday.”
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: SHISHKIN @ 11/4
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: CAPTAIN GUINNESS @ 14/1 (Each Way)
Kicking off with the opening race which is of course the Supreme and I’ve had a couple of punts in this and the first of these comes in the form of Nicky Henderson’s Shiskin who’s the current market leader at 11/4. A very impressive specimen to look at, he’s been equally as impressive at the business end of things winning his last two hurdle races in emphatic style. He may not have done it yet at the top-level unlike some of his market rivals here, however, he looks every bit a Grade 1 horse and a very big run would be no real surprise.
My each-way play in the Supreme is the Henry De Bromhead trained five-year-old that is Captain Guinness who arrives here with just the two runs under his belt. He won his first outing by seven lengths and then followed up with a solid effort in second behind Andy Dufresne in a Grade 2 at Punchestown. He wasn’t given a tough time of it that day and stayed on strongly from the back to press the eventual winner, he’s likely to come on from that effort considerably.
Arkle Chase: CASH BACK @ 7/1 (Each Way)
The Arkle betting is currently dominated by Notebook and Fakir D’Oudaries who look to set the standard in the race, in particular the former who has looked a star this season winning all of his races leading up to this. I’ve had a look outside the top two for my punt and sided with Willie Mullins’ Cash Back who’s a best priced of around 7/1 currently in the betting. He’s a prominent racer that likes to dominate his races from the front and was last seen when putting it up to Notebook all the way to the line in the Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival. If getting his own way out in front here and getting into a jumping rhythm a few of these might find it difficult to peg him back.
Champion Hurdle: EPATANTE @ 10/3
Champion Hurdle: CILAOS EMERY @ 7/1 (Each Way) (NRNB)
We have one of the worst looking Champion Hurdle’s in living memory on our hands and finding the winner of it looks a complete minefield. Looking at the current field there’s a whole host of them that are questionable participants, such as Benie Des Dieux, Honeysuckle and Envoi Allen. That leaves you with who’s most likely to turn up here and take advantage of this weak looking renewal and I think Epatante looks solid enough for Nicky Henderson. She’s progressed impressively this term, winning a hot Newbury handicap and following up with the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle. If continuing on the same rate as progression into this race she’ll likely be bang there for her connections who have such a good record in this race.
I’ve also had an each way play in the race with Non Runner No Bet firms and I’ve done that on Cilaos Emery for Willie Mullins. He was originally tried over fences this term and sat prominently in the betting for the Champion Chase for some time, he fell at Leopardstown over Christmas and was then given a spin over hurdles where he won the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial. It was an impressive display that day despite a few jumping errors, and I believe it may well prove a shrewd move from Closutton having a crack at this as he’s well worth his place here in this line-up.
Mares Hurdle: BENIE DES DIEUX @ 4/5 (NRNB)
Mares Hurdle: STORMY IRELAND @ 15/2 (Each Way)
Willie Mullins has dominated the Mares’ Hurdle since it’s inception and he should’ve won it last year as well. If turning up here, the horse that should’ve gave Mullins another win in the race last year should make amends for her final flight blunder and that’s of course the very talented Benie Des Dieux who sports those famous Ricci silks. Winner of the race in 2018, she came straight to The Festival last year but has had the benefit of a run this time around, and that came when she emphatically dismantled the field in the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle. She’s one of the best mares we’ve seen in recent years and looks a festival banker should she take her place.
Mullins has an array of options when it comes to the Mares Division and I think Stormy Ireland is one of the best each way bets of The Fesitval. She was second in the race last year, however, arrives into the contest in a lot better form this time having won all of her three outings which included two Grade 3 contests. In one of those Grade 3’s she got the better of her stablemate Elfile by over five lengths, and she’s since gone on to boost the form considerably. Honeysuckle is the main danger to Benie here but should either of the top two not fire for whatever reason, Stormy Ireland is best of the rest by some way.
National Hunt Chase: CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC @ 4/1
No longer the ‘Four Miler’, the National Hunt Chase has been reduced to three miles and six furlongs this year and I believe that Gordon Elliot’s nine-year-old Champange Classic will take this year’s renewal. Winner of the Martin Pipe at The Festival back in 2017 the son of Stowaway has never been out of the top three in his racing career and was last seen when finishing second to Battleoverdoyen in a Grade 1 Novices’ Chase in December. He has got to prove himself over this trip, but as have many that will take their place here. He’s a class act and set’s the standard here alongside Carefully Selected.