Just a few days shy of the start, anticipation ahead of the Cheltenham Festival is reaching fever pitch.
Seemingly clear of any threat of cancellation in the wake of the coronavirus, more than 250,000 people will pack into Prestbury Park for four days of high calibre racing.
Both casual and serious punters will be making plenty of notes ahead of placing their bets too, and on that shortlist the following five horses may just appear. They have been the most backed in the past 24 hours:
|Shishkin||Supreme Novices’ Hurdle||Tuesday 10th March||11/4|
|Envoi Allen||Supreme Novices’ Hurdle||Tuesday 10th March||2/1|
|Benie Des Dieux||Mares’ Hurdle||Tuesday 10th March||8/11|
|Copperhead||RSA Chase||Wednesday 11th March||4/1|
|Front View||Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle||Friday 13th March||6/1|
Shishkin – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Tuesday 1:30
As we will find out, the Supreme Novices Hurdle could provide a fantastic battle between Shishkin and Envoi Allen, with others in the mix too.
The latter’s involvement in the race will depend upon the going, but it’s all systems go for Shishkin.
Nicky Henderson has confirmed the six-year-old will be aimed at the Supreme in his maiden outing at Cheltenham.
He’s won three times in four starts in a fledgling career, including a pair of eleven-length triumphs in his last two novices’ hurdle starts. Shishkin will love it if the rain comes and softens the ground yet further, so that’s also something to keep in mind.
— Huntingdon Racecourse (@Huntingdon_Race) February 6, 2020
Envoi Allen – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Tuesday 1:30
The Supreme Novices Hurdle should kick off Cheltenham 2020 in excellent fashion, with two of the most backed horses of the whole meeting featuring here.
A winner over course and distance, Envoi Allen was always going to be well-fancied here after taking the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Festival 12 months ago confirmed his liking for the left-handed track.
It’s been perfect ever since for the Gordon Elliott six-year-old, winning three-from-three albeit in low-quality fare in Ireland, but you can only beat what is put in front of you and Envoi Allen has done that with consummate ease.
There will be plenty who will savour the opportunity to watch him do battle with Shishkin and other top quality horses, but backers should beware: Elliott holds an entry for Envoi Allen in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle too.
The trainer has confirmed it will be the weather which dictates where he points his star.
“There’s every possibility I’ll switch him back to the Supreme Novice,” he said. “I don’t think soft ground will bother him, but just at this stage of his career, whether he wants a slog over two miles and five or not is the worry.”
Benie Des Dieux – Mares’ Hurdle, Tuesday 4:10
When Benie Des Dieux fell at the last in the Mares’ Hurdle last year when clear, it was one of the stories of the festival and a fantastic moment when the 10/11 favourite perished.
This time around she will go off at around the 8/11 mark haven’t been backed in. That money has come because she wasn’t supplemented for the Champion Hurdle, and so will be looking to make up for 2019’s disastrous stumble.
A fantastic winner of the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, the nine-year-old also won a cracking race in France followed by a 21-length demolition of the field in the Galmoy Hurdle.
— Gowran Park (@GowranPark1) January 23, 2020
The form is there and the pedigree remains….Benie Des Dieux could give the bookies a caning on the opening day of the festival.
Copperhead – RSA Chase, Wednesday 2:10
One of the standouts on Wednesday will be the RSA Chase, and a surprise amount of money has come in for Copperhead.
There’s a decent assortment of horses at the head of the market here including Champ and Minella Indo, but Copperhead has caught the eye of punters in recent times.
Three wins on the spin has seen to that, in which he has shown an ability to grind out wins over the three-mile distance on soft ground.
A huge 17-length win in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase was eye-catching indeed, and a triumph at the left-handed Newbury also helped to provide ammunition that Copperhead is a major contender for the RSA.
— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) February 15, 2020
Front View – Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle, Friday 5:30
The Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle is the last race of the whole festival, but it may be worth punters hanging around based on the amount of money that has come in for Front View.
The Joseph O’Brien five-year-old comes from the JP McManus yard, which has produced many Cheltenham champions over the years and so the foundation for success is there.
A winner of a large-field race in Cork, Front View was second last time out in a Class 1 affair and has much higher pedigree than those he’ll be tackling here on his Cheltenham debut.
Five O’Clock jumps strongly to secure the Grade 3 Markaye Contracts Ltd Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle in strong style for @WillieMullinsNH, who lands a double.
— Thurles Racecourse (@thurlesraces) February 20, 2020