Cheltenham Festival 2023
Author: Jordan Yates (EvRacing_)
A huge welcome to the first installment of this Cheltenham Festival series of blogs, where I’ll be sharing my thoughts and fancies for all of the Championship Races that take place at Prestbury Park over the four days of action.
Kicking things off, it will be the Champion Hurdle that takes place on the opening day of the meeting. The Grade 1 contest is contested over a distance of two miles on the Tuesday and is seen as the most prestigious hurdling contest in the calendar. This year’s renewal looks to be all about Constitution Hill, who will likely bolt up at his short price which is currently around the 1/3 mark, the shortest price ever I believe for a Champion Hurdle favourite. I’m going to have an each-way play in the race though, and that will be on Vauban at 8/1 who represents Willie Mullins. It’s pretty much guaranteed that Paul Townend will ride State Man here, who unless a mishap happens, will be the stables first string in the race. He’s finished in-front of Vauban already this season, and could well do so again at the Dublin Racing Festival. However, I actually think that Vauban has the scope to be a better horse than him further down the line, he ran a brilliant race on his seasonal reappearance in the Matheson Hurdle to finish second and if he continues to build on that I think he’s got every chance of running a big race at Cheltenham.
Next up is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which takes place on Wednesday and is a Grade 1 chase contested over two miles on the old course. I think that this year’s renewal of the race can go to the conquerer of last year’s race, which of course comes in the form of Energumene, currently sitting at the top of the market at 8/11 for Willie Mullins. He bolted up in the race last year, getting the better of Funambule Sivola by over eight lengths in a race where market leader Shishkin failed to fire following their epic showdown at Ascot in their previous outings. The Tony Bloom owned nine-year-old then went to Punchestown to take another Champion Chase in impressive style, by beating stablemate and reigning champion Chacun Pour Soi by the same margin of eight and a half lengths. I think he’s pretty bomb-proof here, and it would take a huge performance to stop him from regaining his crown.
The Stayers Hurdle is where my attention turns to next, the Grade 1 event takes place over a distance of three miles on the Thursday and is often an extremely competitive affair for punters. This year’s race is no different in terms of the competitive nature, however, I’ve taken a chance on a horse who’s already a Cheltenham Festival winner having won the Supreme back in 2019, and that’s Klassical Dream at 7/1, who’s also trained by Willie Mullins. He was fifth in the race last year, but has won back to back Stayers Hurdles at the Punchestown Festival in both 2021 and 2022, and has been placed in two Grade 1s so far this term at the time of writing. In a race where a lot of the contenders have form that’s rather hit and miss, I think he arrives here one of, if not, the most solid options. If getting some luck on this infamously tricky track, I think that he’s got every chance of adding the Cheltenham Stayers to his already pretty illustrious CV.
The fourth and final race I’ll be taking a look in this installment of my Cheltenham Festival blogs, will be the feature race of the meeting which is the Gold Cup, that takes place on Friday over a distance of three mile and two and a half furlongs. Galopin Des Champs is all the rage for the race currently, and sits at the top of the market at short odds of 13/8. It’s highly likely that he’ll be very tough to beat, however, I have tried to take him on and I’ve done that with a stablemate of his which will take it to a full house of Willie Mullins trained horses in this particular blog. The horse I like here is Stattler who’s currently trading at a best price of around the 8/1 mark. He won the National Hunt Chase at last year’s festival in impressive style, which compeleted a very productive season which saw him win all three of the races he was involved in. His winning streak came to an end on his first outing of this campaign, when he was just denied by Minella Indo in the Savills Chase at Tramore on New Year’s Day, I actually really liked that run though as he was giving weight away to that rival and it wasn’t really an ideal first outing for him, yet he was only beaten a neck in the end. I think that there could be quite a bit more to come from him, and if some of the top guns ahead of him in the betting fail to fire in what will almost certainly be a test, he’s proven he can handle a tough affair at Prestbury Park and could well pick up the pieces.