THE famous Cheltenham roar will be a bit quieter this year with no fans present.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some of the world’s best horses battling it out at Prestbury Park.
Appreciate It provided Willie Mullins with a sixth victory in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown recently. He will be many people’s banker in the opener tomorrow.
No trainer has won this race more times than Willie Mullins, who will bid for a seventh victory in Cheltenham’s curtain-raising contest on the Tuesday following the victories of Tourist Attraction (1995), Ebaziyan (2007), Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014), Douvan (2015) and Klassical Dream (2019).
Appreciate Iy is a scopey son of Jeremy is clearly a high-class operator and he is undoubtedly the rightful favourite on form. However, he does look to be a staying chaser in the making and will need a truly run race in order to be seen to best effect, otherwise, he may prove vulnerable to speedier types.
That said, this doesn’t appear to be an overly deep renewal of this race and a reproduction of his impressive success at Christmas would almost certainly be enough, while his opposition will undoubtedly require a career-best effort in order to lower his colours.
Only five seven-year-olds have triumphed in this race during its 75-year history (73 races), the last being Captain Cee Bee in 2008. However, Willie Mullins landed his maiden Cheltenham Festival success with the aforementioned seven-year-old Tourist Attraction, therefore I very much doubt that connections are losing any sleep on the back of that statistic — which is undoubtedly exaggerated by the lack of seven-year-olds contesting novice hurdles.
One of the British’s leading hopes in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle looks to be the Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory, but connections have now put doubts in the minds of punters with them evaluating whether he will turn up at all.
The gelding made his debut in October at Chepstow over two miles and he managed to see off the superb Bravemansgame to get off the mark for the season and that form has since been franked with the Nicholls trained horse since going on to be unbeaten and also land the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle.
Off the back of that run, Soaring Glory went to Newbury and was a good second behind the smart Dusart for Nicky Henderson that is said to be a very talented horse. It will be interesting to see if he lines up tomorrow.
Bob Olinger has been backed into favourite for the Ballymore in what could be one of the races of the week.
Henry de Bromhead’s exciting contender has won twice since finishing second to Ferny Hollow on his first start over hurdles this season. His latest victory in the Lawlor’s of Naas was brilliant, showing his engine when staying on strongly to put the race to bed with ease. Trained by Henry De Bromhead, he could be worth following.
Tritonic has been very strongly supported for the Triumph Hurdle following his impressive success in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton last month.
Alan King’s four-year-old made it two from two over hurdles and put his name firmly in the hat for the first race on the final day of the Festival. He’s now second-favourite for the race, just behind Zanahiyr.
Houx Gris is the gamble in the Boodles, having been backed from 16/1 into the 5/1 favourite.
The four-year-old has had just the one run for Paul Nicholls and has been put away since. That was behind Adagio and Nassalam and he travelled well for a long way in the race. He’s been given a mark of 128 which punters clearly think is very workable.
Envoi Allen has settled into his new surroundings well, according to trainer Henry de Bromhead.
Already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner, Envoi Allen will head back to the big meeting as the banker of the week for many in the Marsh Novices’ Chase on Thursday.
Owners Cheveley Park Stud switched Envoi Allen to De Bromhead’s care last week, days before Gordon Elliott was suspended for six months after a picture of him sitting on a dead horse was posted on social media.
“He’s settled in really well. Obviously, it’s not ideal — it’s not how you want to get horses — but we feel very fortunate that Cheveley Park sent him and the others to us,” said De Bromhead.
“We’re trying to keep his routine as similar as possible. The horses arrived looking fantastic.
“Gordon was very helpful and filled us in on what he’d been doing, and he seems really good. He marches around the place — I saw him this morning and was delighted. He schooled really well for Jack Kennedy yesterday."
Should Envoi Allen meet with a first defeat, the finger could well be pointed at the change in scenery, but that is not something that concerns De Bromhead.
“There’s pressure with all of them — my main objective is to get them there as well as I can.
“As much as you love to maintain unbeaten records — Honeysuckle is in the same position — I know how hard it is to win at Cheltenham,” De Bromhead told talkSPORT2.