Four days of the best jump racing anywhere in the world is upon us again as we look forward to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. The action gets underway on Tuesday, March 16, with 28 exhilarating contests to enjoy across the week, including the showpiece event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which takes place on Friday, March 19.
It all begins with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
The first race of the week will see Willie Mullins try to land the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Appreciate It who is the current hot favourite at 13/8 with William Hill. Paul Townend is likely to get the ride again after guiding the 7-year-old to three consecutive wins over in Ireland. Appreciate It made his Cheltenham debut at the festival last year, finishing second of 23 in the Champion Bumper.
Shishkin aims to maintain unbeaten record
The second race of the festival, the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices Chase, will see Shishkin attempt to make it seven wins in a row for the Nicky Henderson yard. Regular jockey Nico De Boinville is expected to be in the saddle again and will hope to take his ride to a second festival win having landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year. Shishkin, who William Hill price at 4/5, has looked even better since going over the bigger fences but is likely to face a stiff challenge from the Willie Mullins trained Energyumene.
The Champion Hurdle is wide open
The biggest race on day one could see three evenly matched horses go up against each other hoping to bag the £189,000 prize for winning the Champion Hurdle. Henry De Bromhead trains the unbeaten Honeysuckle, who is the 5/2 favourite, and he leads the market ahead of Goshen at 10/3, who goes for Gary Moore, and Epatante at 7/2 from the Nicky Henderson yard.
Chacun Pour Soi goes for the Champion Chase
The big race on day two, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, could see old favourite Altior try to win a fifth festival race after an incredible career. Priced at 7/1 by William Hill, Nicky Henderson’s runner didn’t appear at Cheltenham last year. At 11 years old Altior will be up against it to roll back the years, especially as Willie Mullins sends Chacun Pour Soi, who is the strong 10/11 favourite after four successive wins.
Can Paisley Park land the Stayers Hurdle again?
Stayers’ Hurdle winner in 2019, Paisley Park, will aim to win the race for a second time in three years for the Emma Lavelle yard. After running poorly in this race last year, finishing down in seventh, Aidan Coleman is likely to be on board again and will be looking for a third successive win over the current market favourite, Thyme Hill.
Al Boum Photo goes for the Gold Cup again
The Willie Mullins trained superstar Al Boum Photo will attempt to win an incredible third Cheltenham Gold Cup in a row. Paul Townend has been on board for the previous two wins and they are favourites at 11/4 to land the big prize once again. He has only had one run since his last Gold Cup achievement, returning to action in January with a comfortable 19-length win. His main competitors are likely to be Champ at 9/2 from the Nicky Henderson yard, and A Plus Tard, who is from the Henry De Bromhead stable and priced at 6/1.
The big races to look out for
March 16 1.20 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
March 16 3.05 Champion Hurdle
March 17 3.05 Queen Mother Champion Chase
March 18 2.30 Ryanair Chase
March 18 3.05 Stayers’ Hurdle
March 19 3.05 Gold Cup