The countdown is on.
We are now just weeks away from the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, undoubtedly the greatest show on turf, where the best of the Irish try their hand with the British elite of National Hunt stars.
And nothing quite whets the appetite as a look ahead to the biggest contests of the week.
There are 14 Grade 1 races across the four days of top quality racing and we’ve taken a look at the top of the market for each one.
Who is expected to dominate the novice fields? Will we see a changing of the guard in the championship events?
Here’s your Cheltenham Festival market principals for day one and day two of the jump racing Olympics at Prestbury Park.
Tuesday 16th March 2021
Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle | 2m 87y | 1:30pm
The Cheltenham Festival kicks off in the right fashion, with a potentially mouth-watering renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in store. Grade 1 winner Appreciate It (9/4) heads the market for Willie Mullins, who is looking for a record seventh win in the race. Harry Fry’s Metier (7/1) has justified his case for second favourite with the five-year-old unbeaten over obstacles, including a first Grade 1 earlier this year, storming up to win the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown. Gordon Elliott’s Ballyadam sits at 16/1, while the same priced Bob Olinger and Third Time Lucki will be looking to give trainers Henry De Bromhead and Dan Skelton their maiden success in the contest.
Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase | 1m 7f 199y | 2:10pm
Tuesday’s action continues with an interesting field in the Arkle Chase, with last year’s Supreme winner Shishkin sitting favourite in the betting. Nicky Henderson’s star stormed up by a combined 36 lengths in his two starts over fences and is now as short as 8/11 to land the contest. Willie Mullins’ Energumene has made light work of his two chase victories so far over in Ireland and could well be some value for punters at 6/1. Dan Skelton’s talented novice Allmankind is currently 9/1, while Unexpected and Captain Guinness are priced at 16/1 and 20/1 respectively.
Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy | 2m 87y | 3:30pm
Market favourite Epatante (9/4) will be strongly fancied to land back-to-back successes in the Champion Hurdle, but after a shock loss last month, Tuesday’s feature race has been blown wide open. It was Silver Streak that condemned Nicky Henderson’s supermare to defeat in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, and is 11/1 to give Evan Williams a maiden victory in the contest. Last year’s runner-up Sharjah (8/1) and improving sort Saint Roi (14/1) spearhead the Willie Mullins challenge, while 2020 Triumph Hurdle second Aspire Tower (14/1) will be looking to land a first Grade 1 under Henry De Bromhead.
Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle | 2m 3f 200y | 4:10pm
n eye-catching cast line up in the season’s renewal of the Mares’ Hurdle and it looks set to be a classic. Last year’s winner Honeysuckle (11/4) is looking for her 11th straight victory over obstacles, but she faces stiff competitions from yards over both sides of the Irish Sea. Concertista (11/4) has impressed massively this season in her two appearances over hurdles while Benie Des Dieux (8/1) will be seeking to avenge last year’s defeat, both for Willie Mullins. Roksana (8/1) looks the best of the British challengers, with two Graded contests under her belt already this season for Dan Skelton.
Wednesday 17th March 2021
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle | 2m 5f | 1:30pm
Ladies Day kicks off with a competitive field in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Regarded as ‘the next Denman’ by Paul Nicholls, Bravesmangame (4/1) tore apart his rivals in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle and looks an impressive sort. Bob Olinger (5/1) has progressed quickly this season and claimed his first Grade 1 earlier this month for Henry De Bromhead, while Gaillard Du Mensil (10/1) and Ganapathi (20/1) lead the charge for Willie Mullins.
Festival Novices’ Chase | 3m 80y | 2:10pm
Willie Mullins’ Monkfish (2/1) will face Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition (10/1) for the third time in under a year in what is set to be an exciting clash at Prestbury Park. Mullins’ six-year-old has come out on top on both occasions and continues to establish himself as a promising prospect over fences, while Latest Exhibition will need to show further progress to overcome the dual Grade 1 winner. Colin Tizzard’s The Big Breakaway (16/1) looks the best of the British chances of victory, while useful sort Pencilfulloflead (16/1) will be hoping to cause another upset in Graded company for Gordon Elliott.
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase | 1m 7f 199y | 3:30pm
An incredible star-studded field line up for Wednesday’s feature race, with cases able to be made for several runners. Chacun Pour Soi (11/10) missed last year’s contest after he was ruled out late on, but Willie Mullins’ star has commanded respect this season with a combined winning distance of 25 lengths in his two Graded victories. Altior (8/1), who also missed last season’s race, will be aiming to bounce back to winning form to land a third Champion Chase under Nicky Henderson, while last year’s winner Politologue (9/1) will want to round off a promising season with another Grade 1 under his belt for Paul Nicholls. Newcomer Nube Negra (10/1) is only the second horse to beat Altior over fences and looks a potential star under Dan Skelton.
Weatherbys Champion Bumper | 2m 87y | 5:30pm
A list of exciting prospects crop up in Wednesday’s closing race, the Champion Bumper. Gordon Elliott’s Sir Gerhard (3/1) has justified favouritism for the contest with two promising performances under rules in Ireland, while stablemate Chemical Energy (16/1) looks a potential threat with strong performances in his two showings so far this season. If Pam Sly can be convinced not to swerve the Festival, three-year-old filly Eileendover (12/1) could be a major contender in the contest after bolting up to win in Listed company earlier this month. Kilcruit (10/1) and Ramillies (16/1) both also have NHF wins to their name and could thrive under Willie Mullins.
*Odds courtesy of bet365 and are subject to change.