Many regular spectators at Cocklebarrow will have a keen interest in the Cheltenham Festival in March. The meeting in Gloucestershire is where we see the leading horses in the sport take each other on in their respective divisions.
We’ve taken a look at what the three of the biggest storylines this year are heading into the meeting at Prestbury Park, just 18 miles down the road from Cocklebarrow.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Blue Riband event in the sport. Defending champion Al Boum Photo goes into the race looking to win it for the third straight year. This would be a remarkable achievement and would put him alongside some of the greats who have managed that feat, including Arkle and Best Mate.
Willie Mullins’ horse from Ireland is a tough chaser. He isn’t quite as flashy as some of the winners of this race. However, his record at the meeting speaks for itself.
Al Boum Photo has taken the same path to Cheltenham as he has done in each of the last two seasons. He prevailed in the Savills New Year Day Chase at Tramore. Mullins’ runner is now 7/2 in the horse racing betting for the Gold Cup following that success in Ireland.
Horse racing fans love a comeback at the Cheltenham Festival as we saw in 2016 with Sprinter Sacre. His victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase was greeted with a huge cheer as it looked as though his best days were long past him, particularly after suffering from an irregular heartbeat.
The latest horse in the 2m division who could be set for a big comeback is Altior. He has been so dominant over fences since 2017, but his last two performances have been a long way below his best. The two-time Champion Chase winner cannot be written off, though, and if he did return to the top of his game, it could be the story of the week.
At the time of writing, Chacun Pour Soi tops the Champion Chase betting at 11/8, while last year’s winner Politologue is next best at 11/2. It would be foolish to write off Altior’s chance in the leading 2m chase contest at the meeting, but it is fair to say he does not go into the race this year as one of the favourites.
Every year new superstars are born at Cheltenham, particularly in the novice races as many of the horses in these contests are making their debuts at the meeting.
There are some exciting novices who go into the Festival in 2021 with big reputations. One of those is Appreciate It who is the favourite to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Mullins has a great record in this race and this latest novice could be the next in line to prevail for his yard.
Shishkin was very impressive over hurdles last season but on the evidence of what we have seen so far in the 2020/21 campaign, he may be even better chasing. Nicky Henderson’s star is odds-on at 4/5 to win the Arkle. His jumping has been perfect in his two appearances over fences so expect a big performance at the Festival.
This year’s meeting takes place between the 16th-19th March and there will be 28 races for fans of the sport to enjoy across the four days.