As any regular bettor knows, favourites do not always justify their status at the head of the market in big horse races. That includes the Cheltenham Festival as much as any other meeting.
With the annual four-day gala of jumps horse racing fast approaching, what of the fancied runners heading to Prestbury Park for Champion Hurdle day? Is there any case to be made against them? Let’s take a look at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival favourites for the opening day…
While trainer Willie Mullins is no strange to Supreme Novices’ Hurdle success, the famous Cheltenham roar hasn’t helped fancied runners of his home in recent years. Since Douvan delivered for the yard in 2015, only Klassical Dream has obliged for him in this race over the last five Festivals.
Appreciate It is a dual Grade 1 novice hurdle winner in Ireland that have travelled strongly through his races and won by staying them. Such qualities are certainly no negative for the Supreme, but he may be vulnerable to a speedier type such as Tolworth Hurdle winner Metier or Soaring Glory.
After overcoming a heap of trouble in the run last year to get up and land the Supreme, Shishkin is now out to sparkle in the Arkle Challenge Trophy for novice chasers. One of the most popular Cheltenham day 1 betting tips for this season after making the switch to fences look very easy, the world is his oyster.
The trouble is that Shishkin hasn’t beaten much, although Tamroc Du Mathan franked the Wayward Lad form with victory in the Pendil Novices’ Chase. At the Festival, Nicky Henderson’s hot prospect faces the rapidly progressive Irish raider Energumene and theirs could be a ding-dong tussle up the famous Cheltenham hill.
We know that Honeysuckle stays further than the Champion Hurdle trip, but a demolition of the best two-milers at the Dublin Racing Festival in her retaining the Irish equivalent puts Henry De Bromhead’s unbeaten mare in pole position. She won’t lack for stamina.
There are no longer any “freebies” in Ireland the best horse wins – best bred, best bought, best trained, best placed simple! Willie’s secret sauce is he doesn’t rush his horses he gives them plenty of time. He also lets the horses do the talking 😉 #Footpad #Concertista pic.twitter.com/5vyk4ELMW2
— Simon Munir (@simon_munir) February 13, 2021
Fellow female and last year’s Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante has had a back problem, according to Henderson, which has been straightened out since her defeat in the Christmas Hurdle. Goshen is out for compensation after unseating at the final flight in the Triumph Hurdle, so there’s a speedy rival up against the mares come Cheltenham.
After making an effortless step up in trip and winning both her starts this season, Concertista will benefit from high-profile absences from the Mares’ Hurdle. Roksana has two Grade 2 victories over further and is a previous winner of the race, so makes for an in-form rival.
Last year’s Coral Cup winner Dame De Compagnie could be back over hurdles here too, so Cocertista who took the Dawn Run for novices at the Festival in 2020 still has some competition. Whether her rivals have the same scope for further progress in this sphere remains to be seen.