We are just 44 days away from the Cheltenham Festival, the greatest show in national hunt racing. We’ll be treated to four days of exhilarating action, with the best of Britain and Ireland fighting it out for a plethora of big prizes, including 15 Grade 1 races.
Our preparation for Cheltenham began months ago, scouting for potential angles into Cheltenham. At this stage, we have our eyes on five runners in the championship races, and they make into an 111-1 accumulator. You can find all our analysis below, including a banner to add all the selections to your betslip.
With there still being a month and a half until the Cheltenham Festival, please bare in mind that our selections may change come March.
A perfect thirteen out of thirteen under rules, Honeysuckle is the queen of jump’s racing and another Champion Hurdle beckons. She was truly magnificent when landing the race twelve months ago and she returned with a dominant victory in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse in November. Finding chinks in her armour is almost impossible and given the weakness of the division behind her, she’s impossible to oppose at this stage.
The list of Nicky Henderson’s two-mile stars seem to grow meeting by meeting, but Shishkin remains top of the pile. He made it seven out of seven when lowering Energumene’s colours in the Clarence House last time, running him down in the final strides. Posting an RPR of 181, it’s only two shy of Altior’s peak figure, when he landed the 2018 Champion Chase. Frighteningly, Shishkin remains unexposed and there’s no telling just how high he could rate. Facing plenty of rivals he’s already beaten, he can land a fourth chasing Grade 1.
The 2m4f distance is the sweet spot for Allaho, who won the 2021 renewal of this race by 12 lengths. He’s already added another Grade 1 to his tally this season, winning the John Durkan on return in an effortless front-running display, before another 12-length success in a Thurles Grade 2 last time. Like many of Willie Mullins’ stars, he travels with ease through his races and glides over his fences, which makes him very tough to peg back. If he gets into a rhythm early under Paul Townend, he won’t be coming back to them late in the day.
The picture for this race changed dramatically with both Champ and Klassical Dream suffering shock defeats. It’s now a very murky picture and at this stage, Thyme Hill makes the most appeal. He suffered an injury in the build up to the race last year, winning at Aintree to cap off a stellar campaign. He was defeated by Champ at Ascot last time, but he was keen early and despite being off the bridle a long way from home, he kept digging and wasn’t beaten far. It’s still relatively early days for him as a stayer and with conditions in March likely to be his optimum, he commands plenty of respect.
Going down narrowly in the race twelve months ago, he can make amends one year on. He made his 2021/22 return with a remarkable win in the Betfair Chase, scuttling 22 lengths clear of subsequent Peter Marsh winner Royale Pagaille. He was a shade disappointing when only second in the Savills, but he lost little in defeat all told. Given that he perhaps over-raced, jumped right at times, and had a wide trip, it didn’t suggest he had taken a backward step. He’s capable of far better than what he showed that day and a return to Cheltenham will suit him. The class horse in the race at his best, he’s still a very attractive price at this stage in proceedings.
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