The Cheltenham Festival (10th-13th March) is always eagerly awaited by racing fans in the UK and Ireland, but it’s also gained a decent following among punters beyond the British Isles. As with all great horse racing festivals, the narrative changes every year but the thrilling action remains a constant.
At the 2020 Festival, we expect the usual top-quality races; that’s a given. But what are punters and racing fans talking about in the run-up to the festival? What questions are on everyone’s lips? Below we look at five areas that will likely dominate the 2020 Cheltenham Festival:
Where’s the Money Going?
While there’s undoubtedly buzz about the feature races, some of the more low-key Grade 1 races, like the Ryanair Chase, Marsh Novices’ Chase and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, are causing a stir thanks to the horses involved. The beloved Irish star Faugheen, for example, will contest the Marsh Novices’ Chase, coming in at odds of 6/1 with Paddy Power. Envoi Allen, who is very much cited as the next big thing in jumps racing, will likely tackle the Ballymore and is the 5/4 hot-favorite. The good news for value-hungry bettors is that this year Cheltenham promotions are offered on a wide range of markets, and not just the feature races. So, you can snap up free bets on almost any event at the 2020 festival.
Where’s the Money not Going?
Underestimating great horses can always make you look foolish, but punters have been cool on the record-breaking chaser Altior. The four-time Cheltenham Festival winner has been pushed out to 3/1 with Betway for the Champion Chase. Defi Du Seuil is the market leader at 2/1 generally, but we should add the caveat that Altior will shoot back up again should he impress in a runout between now and the festival.
And the Gold Cup?
A tough, tough call for the most prestigious race of the week. Last year’s winner Al Boum Photo heads the betting at a best price of 9/2 with William Hill, but Delta Work, Santini (both 5/1), Lostintranslation (7/1), Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy (both 8/1) all have the goods for a Gold Cup triumph. Moreover, several candidates are lurking in the back end of the markets whom their trainers believe to be underrated, including Bristol De Mai who finished third last year. It’s a puzzle as you could make a case for perhaps a dozen horses. One of those races were the winner seems obvious – after the result.
What Else Is Causing a Stir?
Everything is set up for Faugheen to be the story of the festival, which would be a perfect swansong for a glittering career. One of the best hurdlers of the 21st century delighted fans down the years, and the late switch to chasing has proved to be a masterstroke on the part of trainer Willie Mullins. However, a lot of speculation is swirling around Mullins’ star mare Benie Des Dieux. A class act, she fell in the Mares’ Hurdle last year (having won the year before), but talk of supplementing her for the Champion Hurdle is throwing up memories of a certain Annie Power.
Who is Sure to Win?
Nothing is certain in horse racing, but it would take a brave punter to go against Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Last year’s winner hasn’t missed a step, and you can see why bookmakers have inserted him as low as 8/11 for the repeat victory. Tiger Roll (5/4) would also seem to fit that bill in the Cross Country Chase, but there are concerns over his preparedness. Moreover, you would think a third Grand National triumph will be the priority for his connections.