Cheltenham Festival 2022 Preview
Welcome to my Cheltenham Festival Preview for 2022, where I have reverted back to the written blog-style preview by popular demand, as I am very much a man of the people. I hope you all enjoyed my “Path to Cheltenham” series that led us to The Festival, and here we are once again for the spectacle of the racing season.
I’ll be previewing the meeting on a day by day basis instead of just one big preview, and I’ll be sharing with you my opinions and on thoughts on all of the action. Remember, you don’t have to bet on all of the races, you don’t have to bet on any of them in-fact. If you are gambling though, make sure to do it in a resonsibile manner.
As ever though, enjoy the preview!
The famous Cheltenham roar will ring around Prestbury Park at 1:30 as the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle lowers the curtain ands gets us underway. The Grade 1 event is contested over two miles and I’ve had two darts in this year’s renewal of the race. The first of these comes in the form of Constitution Hill for Nicky Henderson who’s currently a 9/4 chance in the betting. He was last seen when bolting up in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, where the smart Shallwehaveonemore was a distance behind him, and the time before that he got the better of the also talented Might I in the same style. This is pretty strong form, and despite recent winners of the Tolworth not having a great record in this race I think this horse could well be another potential superstar for Seven Barrows. Nicky Henderson most recently won the race with Shishkin back in 2020. My other fancy in the race is an Irish challenger and that’s Kilcruit for Willie Mullins, who’s an each-way play for me at 7/1. He was second in the Champion Bumper here last year when he arguably should’ve got the better of Sir Gerhard, and reversed the form with that rival at Punchestown after. This term he disappointed in his first two starts over obstacles but put things right with a bloodless display last time where he dismantled a field. I think there’s still more to come from him and he’s every chance of playing a meaningful role at the business end of things. The main dangers to the selections look to be: Sir Gerhard, Dysart Dynamo & Jonbon.
It’s the Arkle up next at 2:10 which is another Grade 1 affair, this time over fences and contested over a trip just shy of two miles. I like the chances of Edwardstone here for Alan King who’s a best price of 9/4 currently in the betting. He’s been a revelation this season over the larger obstacles winning his last four in a row, which included the Grade 2 Kingmaker at Warwick last time out and a 16 length success within Grade 1 company at Kempton on boxing day. He looks the most solid selection here for me and I’ll be siding with him to once again to get his head in-front as I did at Warwick last month. There’s a whole host of dangers to the pick here, Irish raiders Blue Lord and Riviere D’etel look the most notable, with the latter getting an allowance which could prove key.
We move into handicap company now at 2:50 with the Ultima Handicap Chase taking centre-stage. This particular affair is over three miles and a furlong and is a race that the British actually have a decent record in. That being said, it’s an Irish horse that’s the current favourite in the form of Death Duty for Gordon Elliott, who looks to have a fantastic chance as he appears to be very well handicapped. He’ll be tough to beat here but I’ve taken him on with a home challenger and that comes in the form of Does He Know for Kim Bailey who’s currently an 8/1 chance in the betting. This is a horse I’ve been a fan of for a while now and he’s seemingly still improving, he was last seen when bolting up by fourteen lengths in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot and he also has a lot of course form to his name, having won a chase here in October as well as twice over hurdles last term. Kim Bailey has sent Happygolucky and Vinndication here in recent years who both ran well, and I think his charge in this year’s renewal has every chance of putting in a bold bid also.
It’s the big one of the day now which is of course the Champion Hurdle which is set to take place at 1.30. The first Championship race of the meeting which is ridden over two miles and to me it looks to be all about Honeysuckle for Henry De Bromhead, who’s a short price favourite at 4/6 to retain her crown from last year. She’s one of the best mares we’ve ever seen and arrives here not only defending her title but defending a perfect unbeaten record of 14 wins from 14 races. Most recently she won the Irish Champion Hurdle by over six lengths at the Dublin Racing Festival, after kicking her campaign off with an eight-length victory in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace. She’s going to take all the beating once more here. If you are looking for one as an each-way alternative though to the hot favourite I’ve had a play on Adagio for David Pipe who’s currently trading at a best price of 14/1. He’s a very likeable horse who never seems to run a bad race, he was last seen when finishing second behind Goshen in the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle which followed a very impressive weight carrying effort in the Greatwood Hurdle here in November. His course form reads 2122 which include a second-placed effort in last season’s Triumph Hurdle, if a few of the big guns don’t fire he’s every chance of getting in the frame once again. I’d see the main dangers to the selections here as: Appreciate It and Teahupoo.
It’s more Grade 1 action up next this time with the Mares Hurdle at 4:10 which is ridden over just shy of two miles and four furlongs. Tellmesomethinggirl is the current favorutie here for Henry De Bromhead at around the 3/1 mark, she won the Mares Novices’ race at The Festival last year and looks to be the one who has the most potential moving forward which is why she sit at the top of the betting. I’ve taken her on though and I’ve done that with another horse who looks to still have more to offer and that’s Queen Brook for Gordon Elliott at 7/1. She beat the smart Ciel De Niege over hurdles back in November and was last seen staying on behind Burning Victory in a Grade 3 at Punchestown last month. Back in 2020 she finished third in the Champion Bumper behind Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It which is form that speaks for itself. I think there could well be more to come from her and if she does line-up here she’s every chance of having her say.
The penultimate race on Day One of The Festival comes at 4:50 and is the Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, a Grade 3 contest over two miles. This is generally a fiercely competitive affair and this year’s renewal is no different, therefore I’ve side with two horses. The first of which comes in the form Gaelic Warrior for Willie Mullins at 11/4 who sports the famous Ricci silks which we have seen carried to success on numerous occasions by great horses at The Festival. You are taking somewhat of a risk with this particular horse, as he’s yet to have a run for Mullins and only has French form to his name. The key thing to note though is that they’ve kept him for this race as they seem to be very happy with the mark he’s been given by the British handicapper, which the team at Closutton seemingly think is a considerably leninent one, I think he could prove to make a mockey of a mark of 129. I’ve also had one at a bigger price here and that’s HMS Seahorse for Paul Nolan who’s currently trading at a best price of 11/1. He’s a fairly unexposed type and has been getting better which each run over hurdles, he started the campaign off finishing third behind Pied Piper and was most recently seen winning at Fairyhouse last month when odds-on to do so. This assignment requires a significant step up on what he’s shown so far, but I think there could be more to come from him and he’s a nice price.
Concluding the day’s action is the National Hunt Chase which comes up at 5.30. The Grade 3 contest is now contested over a distance of three miles and six furlongs and in this year’s renewal it’s the Willie Mullins trained Stattler I like the look of who’s currently an 11/4 chance in the betting. This horse looks to be far and wide the most classy in the race, and he wouldn’t look out of place in some of the Grade 1s which he could’ve contested instead. Sometimes the best horse doesn’t win this race, as you need a lot of luck, however, I think this horse will stay all day, and will possibly be aimed at Grand Nationals later down the line. He was fourth in the Albert Bartlett at last year’s Festival and has won both of his starts over fences this term, most recently winning a Grade 3 where he got the better of the smart Farouk D’alene. It’s likely he’ll be the mount of Patrick Mullins for this assignment and I think he’s got a very good chance of going close. The main danger for me here looks to be Run Wild Fred for Gordon Elliott, he’s a lot more battle-hardended for this type of test and should be there at the business end of things.