The best National Hunt horses from Great Britain and Ireland are set to do battle at the Cheltenham Festival from March 10th to 13th. Despite recent storms and flooding in the UK and anxiety over the spread of the coronavirus, the scene is set for four days of top quality jumping action. It has been confirmed that dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll will be in action on day 2 as he prepares for an unprecedented hat-trick at Aintree.
Cheltenham Gold Cup looks wide open
The highlight of the week is the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the closing Friday, a gruelling test over an extended three and a quarter miles. There is a particularly strong Irish challenge, led by reigning champion Al Boum Photo. He has enjoyed a trouble-free passage to Cheltenham this year. He is trained by Willie Mullins who also saddles Kemboy who unseated his rider at the first fence 12 months’ ago.
Gordon Elliott opposes with Irish Gold Cup winner Delta Work and last year’s beaten favourite Presenting Percy is back for another tilt at chasing’s ultimate prize. He hinted at a return to his best form at Leopardstown last time and has excellent place prospects. The home challenge is led by Nicky Henderson’s Santini along with dual King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux.
Altior could return to the top of official ratings
Perhaps the most eagerly-awaited race of the Cheltenham Festival this year is the Queen Mother Champion Chase on day 2. Altior has won the race for the past two seasons and was officially rated the best steeplechaser in training until deposed by Cyrname. His defeat to that horse in November was blamed on the longer trip and testing ground.
Altior had set a record 19 consecutive victories prior that defeat and picked up the winning thread at Newbury next time. He faces two rising stars in Tingle Creek winner Defi Du Seuil and Ireland’s Chacun Pour Soi. Tiger Roll is expected to win the Cross Country Chase for a third successive year on the same day.
Epatante leads Henderson Champion team
The hurdlers take centre stage on the opening day with the Champion Hurdle over two miles. Henderson is seeking a record eighth winner in this race and could saddle as many as five runners. Epatante was very impressive in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and has been given the green light after a recent bout of coughing. Stable companion Pentland Hills has had a minor wind operation since his narrow defeat at Haydock Park last time.
Shishkin could give Henderson the perfect start to the meeting in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Exciting Irish novice chasers Notebook and Fakir D’Oudairies are expected to dominate the Arkle Chase. There is a complete guide to all the form and horse racing tips on the well-established OLBG.com website, an excellent resource for horse racing fans.
Paisley Park odds-on for Stayers’ Hurdle
The third day of the meeting produced some incredible drama in 2019, notably with Bryony Frost riding Frodon to Grade 1 success in the Ryanair Chase. The combination are back again this year but have Irish raiders A Plus Tard and Min to contend with. Punters will be looking to odds-on favourite Paisley Park to repeat his victory in the Stayers’ Hurdle on the same card.
The top juvenile hurdlers compete for the Triumph Hurdle on Friday. Solo burst on to the scene with an emphatic victory at Kempton last month. He clashes with the unbeaten Goshen and Allmankind. Hazel Hill is yet another horse attempting to repeat last year’s success when he lines up in Friday’s Foxhunter Chase. It promises to be another thrilling week of National Hunt racing.