The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most anticipated meets of the horse racing calendar with four days of equine excellence taking centre stage at the Gloucestershire turf. The four days span across the 10th to the 13th March with the Gold Cup bringing the curtain down on the major races on the final day.
But, with Cheltenham less than a few weeks to go, which horses should you watch out for?
Cash Back – Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase
Cash Back has already impressed on his first two starts over fences this season with only Notebook finishing ahead of him at Grade One level at Leopardstown. Though Cash Back is behind Notebook in the betting for the Arkle, there is no reason why the eight-year-old cannot undermine those odds with victory.
Cash Back looks well-suited to the Arkle; with an eagerness to lead from the front, Willie Mullins’ contender has proved that an uphill finish is no cause for concern at Naas in January.
And, if ever there was a glowing recommendation, Mullins stated that Cash Back reminded him of Un de Sceaux – the 2015 Arkle winner – with a great, never-say-die attitude. With four victories from five past Arkle runs, Mullins will be hoping that Cash Back provides a fifth at 7/1.
Epatante – Champion Hurdle
The Champion Hurdle looks quite open in 2020 with a number of contenders all fighting for the title. However, Epatante impressed greatly in the Christmas Hurdle last time out and she could well be the one to back here.
Though disappointing in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle on her first start at Cheltenham in 2019, trainer Nicky Henderson professed the horse was affected by flu vaccinations. With only eight starts to her name, six-year-old Epatante has plenty of room for improvement. Currently with odds of 100/30, the mare has lots of good qualities that can bring home victory.
Allmankind – JCB Triumph Hurdle
Allmankind’s hurdle debut could not have been won in more spectacular fashion with a victory by 37 lengths at Warwick. He went on to score at Cheltenham the race after as well Chepstow in a Grade One against a tough field.
Allmankind has a number of qualities that set him apart from the other racers, including front-runner Goshen. He finds a lot whilst under pressure and jumps extremely confidently for a horse with little experience. Odds of 5/1 make Allmankind a surefire bet.
Latest Exhibition – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Latest Exhibition looks almost perfectly suited to the Albert Bartlett as trainer Paul Nolan waxes lyrical about his latest high-class performer. He demonstrated a superb attitude to defeat Andy Dufresne in December before scoring at Grade One level at the Dublin Racing Festival with just one defeat this season against leading Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender Abacadabras.
The seven-year-old works well under pressure with the Albert Bartlett’s extra two furlongs sure to help him given his stamina and good finishes. With useful form and improvement in jumping, Latest Exhibition’s 7/1 odds will influence many a flurry.
Al Boum Photo – Gold Cup
It has been 16 years since Best Mate recorded consecutive victories in the Gold Cup, but Al Boum Photo is in with a shot of ending that run in 2020.
Another one of Willie Mullins’ horses, the eight-year-old ran just once before winning the Cheltenham feature in 2019 and has prepared for this year’s exactly the same with a race at Tramore on New Year’s Day.
By being kept fresh, Al Boum Photo can go all out to lift the Gold Cup once more with even more improvement to come. Carrying odds of 4/1 across Cheltenham Gold Cup tips, he is surely the one to beat.