Cheltenham March 16 Preview: Which horses to back
TwinSpires writer Josh Powell will be on site every day for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival in Great Britain. Josh will provide daily assessments and analysis of racing trends, track play and bias, and other key trackside information punters desire.
Which horses to back as the Cheltenham Festival begins
After months of dreaming, the Cheltenham Festival has arrived. The best horses in the UK and Ireland go toe-to-toe in the greatest show on turf for the most prestigious prizes in the sport. Jockeys, trainers, owners, and fans alike are all eagerly awaiting the tapes to go up, as horses attempt to write their names into the history books.
As we go into day one of the Festival, here are the best bets for Tuesday.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Appreciate It was well fancied in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago but could only manage second. He can right that wrong in the opening race this time around. He has been untouchable over hurdles this season and has already beaten Ballyadam twice quite comfortably. Metier will be the main challenger to Appreciate It, but the Irish horse looks a level above the opposition.
- Selection: Appreciate It
The Arkle Chase
Energumene’s withdrawal from this race has set it up for Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin. He has demolished everything in front of him in his three races over fences this year – winning them by a combined 44 lengths – and he might have even more in the tank. Allmankind is a Group 1 winner but can occasionally put in a dodgy jump and Shishkin could lap a few of these if he wanted.
- Selection: Shishkin
Ultima Handicap Chase
A fiercely competitive race as always, and it’s never easy to pick out a winner. Milan Native won on his handicap debut at the Festival 12 months ago and has had a wind operation since then which could bring about more improvement. The handicapper keeps hiking up the weight on Aye Right’s back, but he has an army of fans and will be well supported again.
- Selection: Milan Native
Honeysuckle has won 10 from 10 as she bids to keep the record of mares going in a fascinating Champion Hurdle. Epatante is the reigning champion but let a lot of bettors down with a poor run at Christmas, and that defeat still stings. Meanwhile Goshen was 10 lengths clear in the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival last year but unshipped his rider at the last. Will he be able to shake those demons here?
Even if Goshen and Epatante do run to form, it looks hard to oppose Honeysuckle who is on course to prove that girls do indeed run the world.
- Selection: Honeysuckle
Trainer Willie Mullins has won this race seven times in 10 years – and it could’ve been more had it none been for some famous falls. So, it is no surprise to see his mare Concertista at the top of the betting. She was superb last time out at Leopardstown in Ireland and is clearly the best of the Irish raiders. Roksana will put it up to her, but she probably wants a longer distance and that, combined with Mullins’ record in this race, makes me lean towards the favourite.
- Selection: Concertista
Boodles Handicap Hurdle
Busselton for Joseph O’Brien is very interesting in this race, with the application of cheek pieces for the first time potentially going to eke further improvement out of the four-year-old. The drying ground could also suit and if he can improve again on his last run, he has a big chance. Houx Gris cost €200k at the sales and has been kept under the radar especially for this race. Zoffanien is a big underdog who could spring a surprise.
- Selection: Busselton
National Hunt Chase
Galvin was second at Cheltenham last year, but since then has racked up four wins over fences in a row and looks a serious player to round off the day. He is one of only two course winners in the field, which may prove valuable as they come up the infamous Cheltenham hill. Question is will he be able to stay the distance. One horse that will definitely get the trip is Escaria Ten and he could be the biggest danger to Galvin.
- Selection: Galvin