The British and Irish jump racing season has well and truly kicked-off, with the countdown to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival underway. A string of high-potential thoroughbreds are set to make their competitive debuts over the fences at racetracks like Haydock, Newbury, and Cheltenham in the coming weeks, as owners and trainers alike ascertain their true potential.
Cheltenham will play host to its usual two-day October Showcase meeting, with some horses set to enter a steeplechase for the very first time. The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Mossy Fen made his first chasing appearance during the Friday session at Cheltenham. He enjoyed an encouraging novice hurdling season in 2020, with three race wins under his belt, as well as a creditable fifth-placed finish in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Ed Jeanes, who provides regular tips over the jump season for Oddschecker, appears to like the current 28/1 odds of Mossy Fen winning any race at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Could Nicky Henderson have a future Arkle winner?
The Showcase event also saw a potential Arkle contender take to the racetrack in the shape of Nicky Henderson’s Fusil Raffles. The five-year-old made its chasing debut in September at Uttoxeter and won in comfortable fashion in the end. The gelding was entered into Friday’s Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Showcase, with a view to weighing up his potential for the Arkle in March.
Friday’s eagerly anticipated Maiden Hurdle is another exciting race at the Cheltenham Showcase, which has been the proving ground for several Grade 1 winners in the past. Nicky Henderson’s Pipesmoker had two races over fences in 2020 and finished third and second at Cheltenham’s New Course and Ascot respectively. Other horses destined to improve this coming year include Presentandcounting, Art Approval and Faivoir.
Many of the top-performing horses during 2020’s Cheltenham Festival will also be back on the racetrack after a well-deserved break during the summer months. All eyes will be on the following horses to see if they can follow up a solid 2020 season with an even better 2021:
Lostintranslation could be Al Boum Photo’s biggest threat to making Gold Cup history
Lostintranslation is one of the most intriguing thoroughbreds ahead of the coming jump season. It finished a solid third in the Gold Cup and hope is abound within connections that he can go even better in 2021. Although he is unlikely to be entered in the Showcase, connections are likely to have one eye on Haydock’s Betfair Chase in November. Providing he is successful here — winning back-to-back Betfair Chases — he is sure to be given one more shot at the Gold Cup in March.
Lostintranslation looks likely to be joined at Haydock by the likes of Bristol de Mai, who flattered to deceive in ninth place in its first Gold Cup appearance. Santini looks sure to be Lostintranslation’s biggest rival in the Betfair Chase, given that he was an unfortunate runner-up to Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup.
Nicky Henderson’s highly-acclaimed Altior is one horse that has been off the radar for the last 12 months. Altior missed the 2020 Cheltenham Festival through injury, after a dormant splint appeared, forcing him to be ruled out of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Prior to this unexpected lay-off, Altior had been in imperious jump form, winning 15 of his previous 16 races. November could be a little too soon for him, so December’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park would appear to be a more realistic first start for him ahead of March.
Other top trainers Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins are sure to have a big say in events at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival once again and there’s still plenty of interest in their horses. Nicholls’ top prospects are seemingly his more battle-hardened thoroughbreds like Frodon and Clan des Obeaux. The former is a well-known handicap performer and finished a respectable fourth in the Ryanair Chase in 2020. He is sure to be entered in another high-profile chase in 2021. Meanwhile Clan des Obeaux could also be asked to mix it with the best in the Betfair Chase. Mullins’ Al Boum Photo will also be hotly tipped to make it a hat-trick of Gold Cup victories, with an early season New Year’s Day race almost certain to keep him primed and ready for to strike.