The 2021 Cheltenham Festival is now on the horizon as we bring you a decent looking ante post Lucky 15 to whet your appetite.
Appreciate It (7-4)- Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
There’ll be no famous roar to send the field on their way this year in the Festival’s opening race, but the climax should be a familiar one.
Willie Mullins has six renewals of the Supreme throughout his career, and I think his Appreciate It is a very solid option to make it seven.
Runner-up in last season’s Champion Bumper, Appreciate It has made an unbeaten start to his hurdling career, notching Grade 1 victories at Leopardstown on both of his two most recent outings.
He’s undoubtedly a strong stayer at the trip, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think he’d have any trouble in the Ballymore or the Albert Bartlett.
That being said, he’s proven he’s quick enough to show top form at minimum trip, and this looks a field with very little depth to it. I think Appreciate It is by far the likeliest winner of any of the three Grade 1 novice hurdles at the Festival.
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Honeysuckle (5-2) – Champion Hurdle
Henry De Bromhead’s unbeaten mare dodged the Champion Hurdle last season in favour of the Mares’ Hurdle, but a tilt at the big one is now seemingly in the offing for Honeysuckle.
That move made sense at the time, given how Honeysuckle had generally always a little bit more comfortable over two-and-a-half miles rather than the flat two, and in Benie Des Dieux, she had a formidable opponent to take the scalp of.
However, in gaining back-to-back Irish Champion Hurdles at Leopardstown earlier this month, Honeysuckle evaporated any doubt about her aptitude at the top level over two miles.
Sharjah, Abacadabras, Saint Roi, Saldier and Petit Mouchoir- all the major two mile hurdlers in Ireland, were brushed aside by Honeysuckle, who looked a shade quicker and more accurate over her hurdles than she did the last season.
Reigning champion Epatante won’t have faced an opponent as good as Honeysuckle during her career, and now has something to prove after a lacklustre run at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Monkfish (5-6)- Festival Novices’ Chase
This season has been blessed by a ridiculously strong crop of novice chasers- the clash between Shishkin and Energumene in the Arkle will surely be a highlight of the Festival. Things should be a bit more a bit more straightforward for Monkfish, though.
Winner of a strong renewal of the Albert Bartlett last season, Monkfish, a big, physical beast, always looked the sort to make a better chaser, and he’s probably already bordering on top class after three starts over fences.
He’s won twice at Grade 1 level this season, absolutely tanking his way to victory at the Dublin Racing Festival, with Latest Exhibition, runner-up to him in the Albert Bartlett and probably the second-best horse in division, brushed aside by eleven lengths.
The English form is fair to middling, and Monkfish could probably afford to run slightly below his best and have enough in the tank to win this.
Envoi Allen (4-5)- Marsh Novices’ Chase
Envoi Allen possesses the biggest reputation of any horse in training, and justifiably so. Unbeaten in eleven rules starts so far, Gordon Elliott’s two-time Festival winner will be seen by many as the banker of the week.
He routed a good field to win the Ballymore last season, and looks at least as good over fences, showing a ridiculous push-button turn of foot to breeze clear in the Drinmore back in December. His jumping is very impressive for a novice, bold enough to gain lengths when he stays a stride but clever enough not to lose ground when he gets in tight.
He’s the biggest star in racing, and it will surely take something to go drastically wrong for him to not win this.
A £1 Lucky 15 at the stated prices pays £132.88
Tips supplied by Cheltenham Festival Tips
Allison is the Publisher of Eclipse Magazine. She loves going to the Races and is learning to bet (despite being officially the worst bettor in the History of the Universe), there’s a lot more to learn…