2021 produced four days of jump racing’s usual frenetic four-day mid-March drama with the best of National Hunt taking to the Cheltenham Festival to entertain us while we remained from the comfort of our homes.
Twelve months on, the jockeys and horses will rightfully receive the atmosphere they deserve at Prestbury Park with 28 scintillating races headlining the calendar in this sphere of the sport.
But which titanic battles are we most looking forward to ahead of next year’s renewal of the biggest and best festival on the planet?
Find out if you agree with our top 3 most anticipated duels…
SIR GERHARD vs. JONBON | Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2m 87) | Tuesday 15th March 2022
The first big battle between Ireland and England is likely to arrive in the opener.
Although Kilcruit remains the current favourite, he is shorter for the Ballymore and equally priced for the Albert Bartlett so there is uncertainty as to whether his future truly lies at two miles.
With that in context, the door looks open for Sir Gerhard to prove his worth at this trip despite his Punchestown disappointment behind his new stable-mate. He was possibly unsuited by the quicker ground that he’d never raced on but had shown plenty of class in his three outings under rules before that.
His biggest rival could be Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon, who was acquired by owner JP McManus for a whopping £570,000 at the Goffs UK November Sale after his sole Irish point-to-point success.
The full brother to Douvan left a taking impression on debut at Newbury under Nico De Boinville and Seven Barrows look to have a real Graded contender on their hands if he resonates that form over timber.
Classic Getaway is a tasty 16-1 and was an easy winner on his first run under rules recently, but the expensive Cheveley Park House Stud recruit is unlikely to contest against his fellow Closutton and owned counterpart.
SHISHKIN vs. ENERGUMENE | Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (1m 7f 199y) | Wednesday 16th March 2022
The race that didn’t quite materialise in March may well take place in open company instead.
There will have been disappointment lingering around the National Hunt world when Energumene was confirmed to be injured and miss his Arkle clash with Shishkin.
But there is no reason to think why it can’t take place in the Wednesday feature, with the fact that reigning champion Put The Kettle On does not even figure in the top five betting of the contest outlining the depth.
It has always been the race that has evaded Willie Mullins, with that frustration growing further when odds-on favourite Chacun Pour Soi could only muster third.
But his Punchestown glory set him back on track as one of the star’s of the division, but perhaps the new kid on the block will be the one that Paul Townend sides with next campaign.
Nicky Henderson, meanwhile, has trained former heroes Sprinter Sacre and Altior to successive Arkle-Champion Chase doubles and his brilliant son of Sholokhov will aim to replicate with the hat-trick for the Berkshire yard.
TIGER ROLL vs. EASYSLAND | Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase (3m 6f 37y) | Wednesday 16th March 2022
Seconds out, round 3, anyone?
Both Tiger Roll and Easysland have inflicted massacres on each other in the previous two Festival’s and there will not have been a dry eye when the Gigginstown House Stud gelding returned with a bang in Gloucestershire back in March.
Revenge must’ve tasted sweet given David Cottin’s reverse of the form a year earlier, winning by 17-lengths, and perhaps the single run between his appearances in the race was his downfall four months ago.
And with the honours now even a one apiece, it surely makes sense that the score is settled, with the presence of 60,000 racegoers adding more fizzle to the occasion compared to the bare stands we witnessed earlier this year.
The French raider remains the favourite despite his humbling in more recent history, but he will only be eight by the time the pair potentially meet again, while the duel Grand National hero is entering his twelfth year.