Five Promising Horses That Could Thrive at Cheltenham
The Cheltenham Festival is one of the greatest sporting highlights of the year and excitement is mounting among punters as it edges ever closer. The leading runners, trainers and jockeys from across the UK and further afield will descend upon the famous racecourse to battle it out for fame and fortune over four action-packed days. New heroes always come to the fore and punters will spend the coming weeks analysing the form and identifying potential champions. Whilst some will look for clues from the Cheltenham November Meeting, we’ve picked five budding superstars to look out for with their own Cheltenham pedigree:
The long-awaited entries are in for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the field looks phenomenally competitive. Last year’s winner, Native River, is in the mix along with runner-up Might Bite, plus Betfair Chase champion Bristol De Mai, King George VI Chase victor Clan Des Obeaux and Irish raider Kemboy. But despite the all-star cast, the name that really stands out is Presenting Percy. He is yet to run this season for Pat Kelly, but he was utterly magnificent in winning the Grade 1 RSA Chase ahead of Monalee and Elegant Escape at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. The eight-year-old has won four of his last six races and placed in the other two, showing that he stays the trip, travels and jumps with aplomb, and that he can thrive in all manner of conditions. Kelly has clearly earmarked the Gold Cup for his charge and he could be the one to beat in the biggest race of the year.
Buveur d’Air will bid to win a third Champion Hurdle in a row for Nicky Henderson, and he is the deserved favourite, but he no longer looks invincible. He finished second at the Christmas Hurdle last month, his first defeat since 2016, and he could be vanquished by a truly magnificent performance at Cheltenham. Willie Mullins’ Sharjah might just be the one to vanquish him after dazzling at the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown in December. He made short work of some big names, including Samcro, Supasundae and Melon, winning in comfortable fashion. Sharjah will be entered for the Dublin Festival but he could go straight to Cheltenham – they usually get decent ground there,” said Mullins after the race. “He’s very young but he’s improving all the time.” Check out the antepost betting for the Cheltenham Festival and you will find reasonably long odds on Sharjah, so he could prove to be a popular each-way option.
Amy Murphy’s exciting five-year-old came agonisingly close to seizing the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle at last year’s Festival, only to be pipped to the post by Summerville Boy. However, he shrugged off that defeat in style by romping to victory on his return at Warwick in November, and then he blitzed the field in another novices’ chase at Plumpton last month. He was second to Dynamite Dollars in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas, but Murphy was pleased with his showing. “Overall I was very happy, as happy as you can be coming second,” she said. “He got beat at the first three fences where he made two huge mistakes. He will learn a lot from that race and is definitely better going left-handed. Because of those mistakes he was just on his head the rest of the way trying to catch up. The horse back in third was rated 140 and we beat him god knows how many lengths.” Kalashnikov is third favourite after Lalor and Dynamite Dollars to win the Arkle Chase and that looks like a tempting antepost option.
Considerable buzz surrounds this Kim Bailey-trained six-year-old, who maintained his unbeaten record with a supremely composed victory under David Bass at the Grade 2 Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot last month. Six-year-olds have not fared particularly well in this race of late, while he has never raced at Cheltenham or on any left-handed track. However, he is unbeaten in six races and he looks as though he would relish the step up in trip at the RSA Chase at the Festival. He might be put forward for the JLT Chase instead, but the RSA Chase looks perfect for him and the antepost odds are interesting as he is behind four others in the betting and priced as long as 14/1 with some bookmakers.
Nicky Henderson’s young gun carries a strong reputation, but he lived up to it with a devastating display in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial at Ascot last month. The Irish point-to-point wunderkind was a 6/4 favourite to see off more experienced runners and he was instantly for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, making him the second-favourite behind the Willie Mullins-trained Annamix. “I think there is a fair bit of improvement to come,” said Henderson. “He got a lovely tow into the race from the big horse in front. I’ve got to say even I thought he was impressive.” Henderson was on fire at last year’s Festival, with Altior and Buveur d’Air claiming top prizes for him, and he will be a force to be reckoned with again in 2019.