Cheltenham Festival 2020
AUTHOR: JORDAN YATES
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle:
ENVOI ALLEN @ 13/8
At the time of writing this there is still an air of uncertainty of where Envoi Allen will actually run at The Festival, whether that be here or in fact the Supreme. This is very much in the hands of the weather and the state of the ground, however, should he turn up to this race he’s one of the strongest favourites of the week. He’s unbeaten so far in his racing career, including a Point to Point victory, three Grade 1’s and a Cheltenham Festival win in last year’s Champion Bumper. Since reverting to hurdles he’s continued his fine winning record, claiming both Grade 1’s in the Royal Bond and the Lawlor’s of Naas. He’s already a star, and it’s likely that reputation will be enhanced even further at this year’s Festival wherever he ends up.
I’ve followed Sporting John closely this season following his impressive debut win at Exeter where showed an impressive turn of foot to get the better of the smart Harry Senior by just shy of two lengths. He’s won both of his starts since, with an impressive six length win in a hot contest at Ascot the most latest. He poses a very potent threat to Envoi, and he’s every chance of giving the favourite something to think about.
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase:
CHAMP @ 3/1
Champ is a horse that divides opinion amongst National Hunt fans and probably rightly so, I am however, a big fan of his despite his evident quirks as he’s a very smart animal when he puts his best foot forward. He was well in control here on New Years’ Day when coming down at the last in the Grade 2 Dipper. Before that he won both of his first two starts over fences, including a Grade 2 at Newbury when getting the better of Black Op in fairly comfortable style despite a mishap during the closing stages of the races. He comes with obvious risks, but he’s the potential to be a top performer if he sorts the quirks out.
Willie Mullins’ six-year-old Allaho was third in last year’s Albert Bartlett and has always looked a chaser. He showed that promise when last seen on the track by getting the better of Milan Native by the best part of 21 lengths, progressing from his first run of the season where he finished second to smart stablemate Easy Game. He’s a big player here.
BIRCHDALE @ 8/1 (Each Way)
DAME DE COMPAGNIE @ 10/1 (Each Way)
Birchdale has only had the one start since being pulled up in the Albert Bartlett at The Festival last year, and in said outing he was beaten by the best part of 32 lengths by stablemate Angels Breath. Before that he won his first two outings for Seven Barrows which included a 18 length win a Grade 2 novice hurdle here last January. If returning to that level of form, he’ll be a big player in a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle and there’s still a suspicion that he’s considerably better than this level.
Nicky Henderson also looks to send Dame De Compagnie here who also sports the JP McManus silks. She’s a smart mare who’s no stranger to Prestbury Park having several outings here winning twice, which includes last time out when winning a handicap comfortably at the December Meeting. She also landed a Listed Mares Novice at the track back in 2018 and clearly has a lot of talent. If progressing from her December win here she’s very much a player.
Queen Mother Champion Chase:
CHACUN POUR SOI @ 5/2
The Champion Chase is the race of the meeting this year, with three top class chasers doing battle for the crown. Altior has won the last two renewals and Defi Du Seuil arrives here on the back of two Grade 1 victories in the Tingle Creek and Clarence House. I’m siding with the Irish raider though in Chacun Pour Soi for Willie Mullins and the Ricci’s. He was on the receiving end of a shock defeat to A Plus Tard on his first start of the season, however, a lot of the Mullins runners were needing their first run of the season. He followed that up with a win in the Grade 1 Dublin Chase when getting the better of stablemate Min by just short of four lengths. He’s already beat Defi once, this came at the Punchestown Festival last season, and whilst it’s fair to say Phillip Hobbs’ charge was arriving into that race of a much harder campaign, I’d argue there could be more to come from the Closutton challenge.
Cross Country Chase:
EASYSLAND @ 11/4
Easysland is a French raider who has recently been purchased by JP McManus. He’s won his last six races including a win over the Cross Country here at the December meeting. He was impressive visually that day beating stablemate Amazing Comedy by seven lengths, he’s also only a six-year-old which is rare within this sphere with most horses being much older and at the latter part of their racing careers. He had the number of several of his rivals here a few months ago and if getting a clear round there’s every chance of another big run.
Dual Grand National winner who’s the banker of the Festival for most. He won this race in a canter last year when beating Josies Orders by the best part of 22 lengths. If turning up in that form he’s going to be very tough to beat, which is reflected in his price.
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle:
ARAMAX @ 5/1
Aramax represents the all conquering duo of JP McManus and Gordon Elliott and sits at the head of the market here. This is following an eight length success over Recent Revelations at Naas back in February where he was once again ridden by Mark Walsh. He’s clearly well thought of by connections as he was pitched in the Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle on stable debut on Boxing Day where he fell, the race was eventually won by Triumph Hurdle hope Aspire Tower. It’s likely that there is a lot more to come from this four-year-old and he looks a major player here.
Weatherbys Champion Bumper:
APPRECIATE IT & 13/8
Willie Mullins has an outstanding record in the Champion Bumper, winning it no less than 9 times. He looks to have a very strong hand once again in this year’s renewal and Appreciate It looks to be one of the hottest favourites of the week. He’s won his last two outings including the Grade 2 Future Stars race at the Dublin Racing Festival, where he got the better of Risk Factor by over seven lengths. That form is some of the strongest on offer in the race here and this very highly regarded sort looks to be another major player for Mullins.
Point to Point winner who opened her account for Gordon Elliott with a 21 length victory over Nelly’s Money at Gowran Park last month. Elliott holds her in high regard and there’s no telling the limit to her ability.