The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest meeting of the year in National Hunt racing. The week at Prestbury Park often defines how a season goes for jockeys, trainers, and horses.
Given how unique the track is in Gloucestershire, with the hill catching out many talented runners at the end of the race, course and distance form are important. We have taken a look at the four latest winners of the Championship races to see if they will be a good bet to repeat their success in March.
Epatante – Champion Hurdle
Epatante became the fifth mare in history to win the Champion Hurdle when she prevailed at 2/1 back in March. Nicky Henderson’s runner capped off a fine campaign with success in the premier hurdle contest.
The defending champion will be seven years old when she lines up in the race in 2021, therefore, there may even be more to come from the talented mare. She certainly sets the standard for the rest of the runners in the field.
Epatante is the 7/2 favourite in the horse racing betting odds for the 2021 Champion Hurdle. Those odds are likely to get much shorter if she impresses in the early stages of the season.
Verdict: A good bet
Politologue – Queen Mother Champion Chase
With no Altior and Chacun Pour Soi, last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase was missing two of the biggest stars of the division. That said, Politologue was a worthy winner so his victory should not be devalued in any way.
Politologue has been a consistent performer in the 2m division over the last few years. Although he may find the defence of his crown much tougher next March, as Altior and Chacun Pour Soi are expected to be back.
Altior remains one of the highest-rated horses in training today and a third Queen Mother Champion Chase is well within his reach.
Verdict: Others appeal more
Lisnagar Oscar – Stayers’ Hurdle
Arguably the biggest surprise of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival was Lisnagar Oscar’s victory in the Stayers’ Hurdle. He went off at 50/1, one of the biggest priced winners of a Championship contest in the history of the meeting.
His win at Cheltenham was his first of the season in 2019/20. It was difficult to fancy Rebecca Curtis’ runner in the race on the basis of his form.
A repeat success looks unlikely. However, as he is only seven years old, further improvement can’t be ruled out.
Verdict: Others appeal more
Al Boum Photo – Cheltenham Gold Cup
Al Boum Photo became the first back-to-back winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup since Best Mate in 2004, when he got the better of Santini in a tight finish earlier this year.
Willie Mullins’ chaser is a tough horse who relishes the test of the 3m2½f trip that the Gold Cup presents. He deserves his place at the top of the betting again as, unlike many of his rivals, he has proven on more than one occasion that he ticks all the right boxes for the race.
There are some exciting chasers who are stepping out of novice company this season, which makes the Gold Cup a fascinating contest. Yet, it is Al Boum Photo who remains the one they all have to beat.
Verdict: A Good bet
Next year’s Cheltenham Festival takes place between 16-19 March in what should be another fantastic four days of National Hunt racing.