As March draws nearer, now seems as good a time as ever to reflect on some Cheltenham Festival statistics that may help you back a winner or two.
This season’s fixture will no doubt have a differing feel to spectacles gone by, with the lack of, or total non-existent, crowd.
The enclosures at the Home Of Jumps Racing will have an eerier feel, but the Cheltenham Festival will showcase the best quality of National Hunt action that we can all lick our lips to from the comforts of our living rooms.
So, with the battle of best equine athletes on the horizon, let’s delve deep and see if there any key components you can take from Festival’s gone by that will aid your ante-post selections.
Is the top of the market the place to look or will Prestbury Park’s annual highlight continue to spring numerous surprises across its four-day spell?
Here’s your Cheltenham Festival stat-pack.
1. Luck O’ the Irish
Irish trained runners saw off their British counterparts 17-10 in last season’s Festival to win the Prestbury Cup.
David Cottin’s Easysland was the sole French successor after his victory in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.
Since its introduction in 2014, Ireland have took home four editions of the trophy, while Britain have claimed a duo – the first two, to add, and so are without victory since 2015.
In 2019, 14 wins apiece for the two nations meant the cup was shared.
2. British Champions
Despite their easy victory in the Prestbury Cup, the Willie Mullins trained Al Boum Photo was the only championship winner trained in Ireland when landing the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Nicky Henderson’s Epatante, Paul Nicholls’ Politolouge and the Rebecca Curtis trained Lisnigar Oscar confirmed British dominance in the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Stayers’ Hurdle, respectively.
In fact, 75% of the featured Festival races since 2018 have been home trained winners.
3. King Willie
The aforementioned Al Boum Photo will have given his handler a similar experience to that of London natives and their buses.
Closutton chief Willie Mullins is the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival with 72 successes, currently holding Lambourn representative Nicky Henderson, who sits on 68, at bay.
Despite raking in numerous victories in Gloucestershire dating back to Tourist Attraction’s Supreme win in 1995, the 14-time Irish champion trainer had to wait another 24 years until he won the blue-ribbon event.
And his 9-year-old, a son of Buck’s Boum and owned by Mrs Donnelly, would readily follow up twelve months later.
He is, though, still waiting for an illusive victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Over to you, Chacun Pour Soi…
4. The Best of Enemies
Gordon Elliot and Willie Mullins. Arch-rivals? At least on the track, perhaps.
The pair have dominated the Leading Trainers’ charge at Cheltenham in years gone by and are yet to be knocked off their perch.
In fact, since Nicky Henderson’s record 7 wins in 2012, Elliot (2) and Mullins (6) are the only winners of title in the eight years following.
Both were responsible for 50% of all winners in 2020 – 7 victories and 7 silver medals apiece.
Gordon’s Cullentra crew look set to take home the spoils, but four wins on the final day for Willie evened the scoring and he retained his crown due to having more third place finishes.
5. Friday Favourites Day
In total, 8 market favourites were victorious in the 28 contests across the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Three of these arrived on Gold Cup Day, via Saint Roi, Al Boum Photo and Chosen Mate.
However, this was quite the bucking of an elongated trend.
Just two of the previous 21 favourites on the final day of the Festival before last season had rewarded their backing punters.
The final edition of the Listed Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase was also won by the best backed horse on the afternoon, Imperial Aura,trained locally in Andoversford by Kim Bailey.
He was the second successive favourite to win the race, now replaced by the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, after A Plus Tard’s impressive victory in 2019 for Henry de Bromhead.
Epatante became the third JP McManus owned victor in the Unibet Champion Hurdle in the last four years, and she was sent off a 2/1 market leader.
In second place was 20/1 shot Sharjah – donning the infamous colours of Mrs Susannah Ricci.
Not since 2013, in the form of Hurricane Fly, has a horse owned by someone other than McManus or Ricci won Tuesday’s feature event.