STAR PREVIEW: Cheltenham 2021 Ante Post

There may be nearly a year until the next Cheltenham Festival, but some of the best value can often be found by those who take an early view, especially with ante-post markets tightening up so often. With that in mind, here are a few horses with the potential to make their odds look very large in just under a year’s time, if all goes well….

1️⃣ 1 pt each/way Ferny Hollow, 2021 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – 14/1

Both Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It came clear in the the Champion Bumper (winning distances of two and a half lengths & three and three quarter lengths) and either look to be natural contenders for the Supreme next year.

Ferny Hollow did show a good turn of foot to take the Champion Bumper and whilst it’s entirely possible that he goes for the Ballymore – following in the footsteps of Envoi Allen – the Supreme could be his festival spot next season. A faster pace over the shorter trip compared to the Ballymore could be what’s needed to help him settle and finish out his race properly, and the time figure he posted in closing – 14.7 seconds, the same as Shishkin albeit without the hurdles – suggests he could shape up as a Supreme horse.

2️⃣ 1 pt each/way Captain Guinness & 1 pt each/way, Elixir D’Ainay 2021 Arkle – 50/1

Whilst the novice hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival have given plenty of contenders for the middle distance and staying novice chase divisions next season, the 2 mile scene might be a little more open. Shishkin is an obvious favourite for the Arkle, given how well he did to claw the Supreme back from Abacadabras after a nightmare passage upto and including the home turn, but he was by no means the only horse who ran a big race there.

The continued rightward jumping of Asterion Forlonge had hampered Elixir D’Ainay and several others in a domino effect before he knocked him over and out of the race two out, when he had previously been travelling well beforehand, and also giving Captain Guinness nowhere to go. It remains to be seen how either would have finished.

In the run upto the Supreme, Elixir D’Ainay had won a Naas maiden hurdle in good style from a very solid pair of yardsticks in the shape of Longhouse Poet and Column Of Fire, before finished second to Envoi Allen at Naas, and then running too keenly whilst failing to stay in a 2m6f Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival. A drop back in trip was surely in the offing and he appeared to be suited by a well-run 2 miles until being carted sideways.

Whether he goes chasing remains to be seen, but his chances should be pretty high given the success that Willie Mullins has had with his novice chasers and McManus has a Champion Hurdler in Epatante already for that division. His extra stamina is no bad thing – plenty of Arkle winners and placed horses have gone onto to excel at further – and if sent over fences he’s a horse of major potential.

Captain Guinness is even more unexposed, having just his third run in the Supreme when he was basically slide tackled out of the race, and was still travelling kindly when taken out of proceedings. It would be astonishing if there wasn’t more improvement to come and as far as targets go, chasing seems a pretty natural next step given that he comes from Henry De Bromhead’s yard. De Bromhead is a natural with chasers, novices especially, and took his second Arkle with Put The Kettle On at this year’s Festival. Admittedly there was a nine-year gap since his first Arkle win with Sizing Europe, but he saddled Sizing John to be second to Douvan before then saddling Ordinary World and Petit Mouchoir to be third in consecutive years and Captain Guinness is surely in the right hands for a novice chase campaign.

3️⃣ 2 pts each/way Abacadabras, 2021 Champion Hurdle – 10/1

As impressive as Epatante was in winning this year’s renewal, the two-mile division as a whole is still crying out for fresh blood and Abacadabras could be a perfect contender. Gordon Elliott’s charge came within a neck of winning him the Supreme as well as the Ballymore, having travelled by far the best into the race before quickening and then going 1-7 in running before being nailed by Shishkin. The pair pulled 11 lengths clear of the now 147 rated Chantry House, confirming the impression of what looked a strong renewal beforehand, and the clock helps back up that impression. At The Races time figures (compiled by Simon Rowlands) tell us that Shishkin and Abacadabras both managed to run the Supreme in the same time as the Champion Hurdle, no mean feat given the fact they were carrying 4lbs more than the Champion Hurdler, and Abacadabras already has form tying in with the Champion Hurdlers this year, having finished ahead of Champion Hurdle third Darver Star in the Royal Bond earlier. The ground is also not a problem for him, having run so well on what heavy ground whilst also having plenty of decent ground form, and what’s more we can be confident this will be his target, Gordon Elliott having told the Racing Post: “Our fellow is a very speedy horse and he could be a Champion Hurdle horse.”

4️⃣ 1 pt each/way Defi Du Seuil, 2021 Champion Chase – 10/1

One of the mysteries of the Festival was just why Defi Du Seuil ran so flat in the Champion Chase. The late defections of Altior and Chacun Pour Soi looked to have left what was looking to be the race of the week at the mercy of Phillip Hobbs’s stable star, who went off 2/5 to take the Wednesday feature, but he never landed a blow in finishing a well beaten fourth.

Noting has come up to offer an excuse, but that was surely not Defi’s true running and assuming he went back to the Champion next year, it would be unlikely he’d turn up as big as 10/1. Chacun Pour Soi is the 5/1 favourite, but Defi is an improved horse since their first meeting at Punchestown (when Chacun was notably fresher, and also very much suited by the much speedier track) and Altior, as great as he is, will be 11 by this time next year with Defi being just 8. The Arkle did not look to be an exceptionally strong renewal this year, for all Put The Kettle on deserves great credit, and it’s worth taking the chance Defi Du Seuil isn’t moved to the Ryanair.

5️⃣ 1 pt each/way Monkfish, 2021 RSA Chase – 33/1

The betting for the RSA Chase is understandably dominated by Envoi Allen, the superb Ballymore winner who looks to have the world at his feet. The way that he made and sustained his winning move in the Wednesday opener was extraordinary (and backed up by a deeply impressive finishing time of 319.4 seconds compared to 325.7 seconds compared to the Coral Cup).

He will obviously take a huge amount of beating if he goes here, but it is not the only option for him, with the Marsh also a potential route to a Gold Cup tilt – assuming he goes over fences, which the Thompsons had in mind when he was purchased. Gordon Elliott won the Marsh with Samcro last year (his second victory in the last three years) and it can be a way to avoid a gruelling encounter in the RSA if connections do worry.

Assuming he does go, it is still a race which has three each/way places and it is astonishing to see some of the prices on offer. All of the first four who pulled clear in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle look to be prime chasing material, and Monkfish gets the vote for the long term pick. Willie Mullins’ charge impressed with his tremendous attitude to pull the Albert Bartlett from out of the fire in a four way go, having jumped extremely fluently through the race until that point.

The finishing splits suggest that he was probably helped by Paul Townend’s decision to put him front and centre from an early stage, but he’d been held up in two previous wins before Cheltenham and he’s also a winner on yielding ground too, so ground is not a problem. The Albert Bartlett has been an excellent guide to the RSA next year as one would expect and this surely is the way that the Ricci’s – who have no other obvious future staying chase prospects of his class – will be looking towards.

6️⃣ 1 pt each/way Chantry House, 2021 Marsh Novices’ Chase – 20/1

If Envoi Allen heads to the Marsh then he will surely take the beating – fences have never looked like they’ll be an issue for him – but even then there are three each/way places and Chantry House would be an interesting contender. It’s impossible to be sure about his target but with Shishkin looking a natural fit for the Arkle, Henderson’s Chantry House could easily find himself up in trip.

Indeed, had it not been for a JP McManus clash with Sporting John, Chantry House could well have taken his chance in the Ballymore, with Henderson all but confirming that in a Racing TV post-festival.

“He stayed on well, but we said before the race he probably wants two and a half.
“He ran a very good race, and I don’t think we would have beaten Envoi Allen in the Ballymore. I think that would have been Henderson wishful thinking!

“He will get two and a half, and I would say that would be over fences, but we’ve not had that discussion yet.”

That gives a strong hint at a campaign over 2m4f over fences and his Supreme third was an excellent effort from a horse who should have learned a huge amount from his Festival experience, and his potential claims become an awful lot stronger when one looks at those around him in the betting. Shishkin (8/1) is surely headed to the Arkle if he goes over fences, Monkfish (14/1) has already won over 3 miles at the Festival, & Honeysuckle (16/1) surely has a Mares’ Hurdle repeat as her next target. The Big Getaway (16/1) would be a major player here, but he may well end up going to the RSA for the Donnelly’s and even then Chantry House is a horse of significant potential who might well have a better chance if he gets a less testing surface next year.

7️⃣ 2 pts each/way Paisley Park, 2021 Stayers’ Hurdle – 8/1

One of the most disappointing moments of the week for many was the blowout of Paisley Park in the Stayers, but at least there was an explanation for him where there wasn’t for Defi Du Seuil – it was subsequently revealed that he had an irregular heartbeat. Emma Lavelle has already sent him to Newmarket, where he has had the all clear to get back into work, having been treated by Celia Marr, the same specialist who treated Sprinter Sacre. An irregular heartbeat can be overcome – see Denman and Sprinter Sacre – and assuming he makes a full recovery, he surely will not turn up to next year’s Stayers’ Hurdle as an 8/1 shot given his status in the division. He beat the eventual winner Lisnagar Oscar with ease in the Cleeve Hurdle and before that he’d been unbeaten in seven, beating all comers including the majority of the horses involved in the finish to this year’s stayers.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK 1 pt each/way Ferny Hollow, 2021 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – 14/1 with
BACK 1 pt each/way Captain Guinness & 1 pt each/way, Elixir D’Ainay 2021 Arkle – 50/1 with
BACK 2 pts each/way Abacadabras, 2021 Champion Hurdle – 10/1 with
BACK 1 pt each/way Defi Du Seuil, 2021 Champion Chase – 10/1 with
BACK 1 pt each/way Monkfish, 2021 RSA Chase – 33/1 with
BACK 1 pt each/way Chantry House, 2021 Marsh Novices’ Chase – 20/1 with
BACK 2 pts each/way Paisley Park, 2021 Stayers’ Hurdle – 8/1 with

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 173.88 points
(Excluding Cheltenham 2021 antepost, Premier League ante-post, Six Nations Outright, Six Nations Specials, Labour Leadership Contest, Cameron Brown Football Bets, New Hampshire Primary)