The Cheltenham Festival, which takes place in March, in England, is the biggest National Hunt meeting in the world and attracts all the leading horses for the respective championship races in each division.
Now we are into the new year, the countdown is on for the meeting. Here is an early look at four horses who could be the stars of the show in 2020.
Last season’s Champion Bumper winner Envoi Allen has continued his progression over hurdles with two wins from his two starts this season. His latest success coming in the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Envoi Allen missed the racing over the festive period but is very much on course for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in March where he is the +162.50 favorite in the betting on the race. He is many people’s lock of the meeting, and one which could prove popular in Cheltenham betting offers, including the 5/4 available on the horse to win any race, just in case connections opt to run in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
There is no doubt who the biggest star in National Hunt racing is at the moment. After his second victory in the Grand National last April, Tiger Roll has become a household name.
Gordon Elliott’s chaser is looking to repeat what he has done for the past two seasons and that is win the Cross Country Chase at the Festival and then the world’s most famous steeplechase a month later at Aintree. If the 10-year-old is able to complete that double again, he will go down in Cheltenham and Grand National history as one of the greatest ever and he is sure to have plenty of supporters in the betting on both races.
Paisley Park has been the dominant horse in the 3m staying hurdles division over the last 15 months. He will line up again in the Stayers’ Hurdle in March where he will be bidding to become the first horse to defend their crown in the race since Big Buck’s in 2012.
Emma Lavelle’s runner was right back to his best on his seasonal reappearance, scoring in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, beating a former Stayers’ Hurdle winner in Thistlecrack that day. Paisley Park is +150 in the Stayers’ Hurdle betting so he has a great chance of enhancing his reputation as one of the best staying hurdlers of the last couple of decades.
Epatante will be aiming to become only the fifth mare to win the Champion Hurdle in the history of the premier 2m hurdles contest. Her recent victory in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton suggests she is a serious contender and that is reflected by the bookmakers who make her their +250 favorite. Trainer Nicky Henderson holds the record for the most Champion Hurdle wins at seven and he could extend his record with his talented mare on day one of the meeting.
This year’s Cheltenham Festival takes place from March 10-13 and, once again, record numbers are expected to flock to the racecourse in Gloucestershire.