The biggest race meeting of them all is now just three weeks away and all eyes turn to the latest edition of the Cheltenham Festival which looms ever closer, with racegoers set to return after missing out on last year’s behind-closed-doors event.
Prestbury Park plays host to 28 fascinating contests once again, with every single one just as important and intriguing as the next.
How many of our best shouts will do the business in Gloucestershire in March?
We’ve identified our quartet of bankers that you should be siding with.
EDWARDSTONE (2/1) | Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Steeple Chase | Tuesday 15th March
Winning every race in which he has stood up in this year as a chaser, Alan King can shed his long-awaited return to the Festival winners’ enclosure with the best horse he’ll have trained in years.
The son of Kayf Tara was mightily impressive in the Grade 1 Henry VIII at Sandown in December and has since scored facile successes at Kempton and Warwick, respectively.
He recorded three solid consistent efforts in deep handicap hurdles last year, including finishing fifth of 25 in the County Hurdle here 11 months ago, bu looks a different beast over fences.
The absence of Ferny Hollow clearly helps his cause, but the remainder of the Irish contingent look very beatable based on the Emerald Isle’s equivalent contest in February, and Britain took this race last year.
DIESEL D’ALLIER (14/1) | Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase | Wednesday 16th March 2022
For all the admirable Tiger Roll will be popular, he is one year older from that remarkable return to form last year and is probably favourite based on his name.
There are huge question marks amongst many of the other market principals, but further down the list lies a handsome price for Richard Bandey’s grey who scored at this track back in December.
That followed up a solid third over C&D a month previously, and he has finished fourth in this contest before.
JP McManus’s new recruit Prengarde is a reported absentee for this renewal and given that this looks a pretty uninspiring edition of the Wednesday contest, it could pay to take a chance on the 8-year-old who is still a young gun in this sphere.
ALLAHO (5/6) | Ryanair Chase | Thursday 17th March 2022
He’s short enough to find out, but Willie Mullins’ stable-star looks pretty unopposable in his bid to retain his Festival crown.
The Cheveley Park House Stud representative soared to success in this race under Rachael Blackmore last term and has enjoyed a stellar return to form this season, taking the John Durkan before a bloodless Grade 2 win at Thurles.
He beat the subsequent Ascot Chase victor Fakir D’oudairies that day, so his form in this division is standout.
Even the future 2021 King George winner was left in his destructive wake at Prestbury Park just to exaggerate that point even further, and he looks just about the bet of the week.
ZAMBELLA (14/1) | Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase | Friday 18th March 2022
With last year’s heroine Colreevy now retired, this is perhaps one of the most wide-open races of the week and many hold chances.
Elimay dusted off the cobwebs with an easy Navan win a couple of weeks back, while previous Festival successors Concertista and Mount Ida add plenty of spice to the field.
However, Nigel Twiston-Davies’s mare was in the process of running a huge race in the inaugural edition of this contest a year back before falling three out with every chance.
She’s scored on three occasions from five runs this term, with one defeat a likely pipe-opener over timber at Wetherby in October before disappointing at Leicester in January.
However, her record at left-handed tracks as a chaser is very commendable, winning at Aintree, Doncaster and Uttoxeter in the 21/22 season, respectively.
Fairly versatile on ground, softer conditions would probably be more preferable and she looks to have a right chance at the prices, certainly presenting plenty of each-way value.