The Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner and we’re anticipating something special. Prestbury Park will play host to the best Britain and Ireland has to offer, and the latter is bringing a battalion like no other for 2021.
Looking through the ante-post markets, there are plenty of short-price favourites. Are all of them worth following, though? Not every favourite is value for their price.
We’ve taken a dive through the Festival races and found the five favourites to focus on at this year’s meeting.
Appreciate It (7/4)
Supreme Novices Hurdle (16th March)
One of last year’s best bumper performers, Appreciate It has translated that form to hurdling in no uncertain terms. He’s unbeaten in three hurdling outings, scooping up a pair of Grade 1 contests at Leopardstown after a maiden success at Cork.
No horse in Ireland has gotten close to him, with Ballyadam brushed aside on a pair of occasions. Given that he’s third-favourite, that shows you the task his rivals have on the opening day of the meeting.
Metier is his main danger and although he’s a Grade 1 winner, his form doesn’t match up to what Appreciate It has achieved. For many, their banker of the meeting will run on day one, and it’s hard to argue with it.
Champion Hurdle (16th March)
Many wanted her to take up this engagement twelve months ago, but it’s better late than never for Honeysuckle. She won the Mares’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival and returned this season with a comfortable victory in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace.
Dropped back to the two-mile distance for her most recent outing, her ten-length decimation of the Irish Champion Hurdle field was a career-best effort. The way she travelled and jumped was extremely impressive and a similar performance gives her a huge chance in Tuesday’s feature.
The main question surrounding her chance, is that aforementioned jumping at the shorter trip, but she may well have turned a corner this term.
Brown Advisory Novices Chase (17th March)
You’ll struggle to find an accumulator on the Cheltenham Festival that doesn’t include Monkfish. The way most people talk discuss him, this is just a necessity on the way to next year’s Gold Cup.
That might be a tad premature, but the fact remains, he’s going to be very tough to beat. Last year’s Albert Bartlett winner is unbeaten over the larger obstacles, winning a pair of Grade 1 engagements at Leopardstown. On both occasions, he’s simply jumped his rivals into the floor, travelling all over them with the minimum of fuss.
At this stage, he’s very difficult to oppose. With Royale Pagaille more than likely to head to the Gold Cup and Eklat De Rire needing to take the step up in grade, he’s arguably the most solid favourite at the meeting.
Envoi Allen (4/5)
Marsh Novices Chase (18th March)
Unbeaten in eleven rules starts, Envoi Allen has taken on all comers and has defeated them with the minimum of fuss. That includes a pair of Festival successes in the shape of the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore.
There has been a divide this season, with some questioning what he’s really beaten, but that’s a difficult view to agree with. Ultimately, he’s dispatched all challengers with consummate ease and he’s a special talent. You don’t win eleven straight races, including five Grade 1s, without being just that.
He’s a shade of odds-on in the Marsh and given what his potential opposition have achieved, even that price could be generous.
Ryanair Chase (18th March)
He’s not the strongest favourite in terms of price, but Allaho is unlikely to go off at 5/1 on the day. Promising so much earlier in his career, he’s placed at a pair of Festivals, outstayed over them three-mile distance on both occasions.
After some disappointing runs earlier this season, there was more of his previous zest when dropped to 2m 4f at Thurles last time. He tanked his way through that contest and although Elimay came with a stern challenge, he turned her away comfortably when asked to win the race.
More of an emphasis on speed clearly suited him and the Ryanair should be right up his alley. An even better effort can surely be expected when he goes left-handed at Cheltenham. With that in mind, he’s a very tempting price for a trainer with a great record in the race.
If you back any of our selections you can watch them live on the free Racing Post app or racingpost.com. Simply log in to one of your bookmaker accounts and click ‘Watch live’ on the racecards.