Certainly Al Boom Photo is in rude health heading off to the Festival, having won at Tram ore on New Year’s Day. Willie Mullins is more than aware that the statistics are against his horse achieving back-to-back wins, to say nothing of the fact that the field is going to be a competitive one.
The likes of Clan DES Beau, who won last year’s King George, and Keystrokes Trophy winner DE Rasher Counter will be hoping to stop Al Boom Photo etching his name into the record books. That he’s won the Gold Cup already means that he has some experience that the other horses are lacking, even if he did fall in the RSA Chase when he ran in it in 2018.
The beauty of the Gold Cup is that it’s a challenging enough race to mean that most entries will feel as though they’ve got a chance of victory with a fair wind behind them. That Delta Work won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown at the start of February will mean that trainer Gordon Elliott will be more confident about his charge’s chances than most.
That came at the expense of other likely Gold Cup hopefuls Presenting Percy and Embody, seeing his price come in quite a bit for the blue ribald event. The main thing about Bristol De Mai that means he’s worth having a look at is the fact that most bookmakers seem to have completely ruled him out of the running for the blue ribald event.
It was also a small field in the Grade 2 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase during Cheltenham Festival Trials Day in January. He has plenty of experience racing the Pressure Park course and this will be his third Gold Cup attempt, so it’s not as if he’s likely to be overawed by the occasion.
Other big name winners include Master Minded, Sprinter Sacred and Special Tiara, so that probably helps to explain why Willie Mullins would like a win for Min this time out. There’s a chance that Min might be moved over to the Ryanair Chase instead, but whichever horse he’s entered into he’ll be worth a flutter.
He didn’t take part in the Cheltenham Festival last year after a setback, but wins against horses that went on to do well at Pressure Park earlier in the season meant that he would have been well fancied had he shown up. Rival trainer End Bolder predicted big things for Ciaos Emery after seeing her own horse beaten by him at Cork in December, so that should tell you something.
Willie Mullins has overseen two wins so far this season, with the only defeat coming after he fell in the Keystrokes Dublin Chase at the start of February. At the time of writing Action is the joint-favourite for the Champion Chase, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him become the outright favorite the closer the race gets.
His running style suggests that he’s always likely to struggle, but his placings in racing makes a mockery of that ideal. A lengthy break between April 2019 and November of the same year might well have meant that he was rather rusty when he returned to the Grade 2 Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, perhaps explaining his second-place finish out of three runners, his only defeat over fences.
He looked back to his best in the Game Spirit Chase, which is also a Grade 2 offering, at Newbury towards the end of February however. Little wonder, then, that trainer Nicky Henderson is quietly confident that he’ll be able to cause some trouble in the Champion Chase, even if he’s wary of the horses likely to give him a run for his money.
There will be a huge amount of money riding on Paisley Park when the race gets underway and the only people likely to be pleased if he doesn’t win are the bookies. All the talk in the lead up to the Festival is going to be about Honeysuckle, with the mare having won the Irish Champion Hurdle at the start of February.
She’s won 8 out of 9 starts since moving over to work with trainer Willie Mullins, so there’s likely to be a ding-dong battle between the two if they are indeed entered into the Mares’ Hurdle. The big difference that she’s gained under Mullins is consistency, with a record that read 33614 prior to the move looking like 111F1 since.
Her only outing so far this season came in the Grade 2 John Muller Galaxy Hurdle at Moran Park towards the end of January. The Irish thoroughbred won the Champion Hurdle in 2015, so he’s got good experience of life at Pressure Park, but there was a suggestion he might not from trainer Willie Mullins after the Floras Novices’ Chase in February.
Eleven Grade 1 wins in a career to date that includes 17 wins out of 25 attempts means that Daughter is a firm crowd favorite, so don’t be surprised if the roar is slightly louder from the Cheltenham racegoers should Mullins decide to give him one more outing this season. The ten hurdles that are in play during the running require a horse to have both skill over obstacles and a good degree of stamina to be in with a chance of victory.
Of course, the fact that he’s notched up seven wins from seven starts also helps the feeling that he’s going to be impressive when asked to step up to a race that some much-loved horses have won over the years. With 28 races across four days, it isn’t easy knowing where to put your money at the Cheltenham Festival.
Pundits have always got a tip and very much vary dependent on where you’re reading them. Of course, there’s a consensus when it comes to the horses that will do well though, and a number of them are certainly worth backing too.
We’ve found four of the hotly tipped horses that still provide enough value to back... Cash Back is expected to run in the Ankle Challenge and is priced at 11/2 with Keystrokes, behind Notebook. The Willie Mullins horse was beaten by Notebook last time out in a run at Leopardstown but was still impressive and on another day could take the win. That other day may well be Tuesday, with the course looking ideal for the horse with the Cheltenham hill not expected to cause any problems on the run in.
That attitude is making him a popular choice with punters with Mullins expecting the 8-year-old to go well. One of Dan Skeleton’s big chances of the week is All mankind who will run in the Triumph Hurdle. Priced at 4/1 behind Goshen and Solo, he’s a horse that thrives under pressure and has proven so with race wins at Chest and Warwick.
If he gets ahead of Goshen, we’d back him to have enough in the tank to remain a front-runner. There’s stuff competition here though and Solo will be a tough horse to beat.
It’s a three horse race, which makes it the perfect bet for backing a place. Nicky Henderson knows what he’s doing at Cheltenham, and he sees Separate as one of his biggest hopefuls in the Champion Hurdle.
The Champion Hurdle has a strong field in the likes of Honeysuckle and Pent land Hills but Separate is favorite at 10/3, and we can see the 6-year-old running well after a good start to the season. Last year’s Gold Cup winner is among the favorite in 2020 but no horse has retained the crown since Best Mate in 2004. Al Boom Photo is a little special though and the Mullins horse has had an identical schedule to last year.
A run out and win on New Year’s Day has seen a gentle work up to Cheltenham. Embody was a favorite among punters last year but disappointed, although Mullins believes his second contender could also provide a bit of an upset at 7/1.
It’s always a difficult one to call but with Al Boom Photo coming in fresh, he’ll be a real hit with the bookmakers. If you’re looking to bet on the Cheltenham Festival 2020, then it really does make sense to male the most of all the bonuses and promotions on offer.
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In her novice season, Annie Power elected not to take part in the list of Cheltenham World Hurdle runners. This success immediately made her a favorite for the upcoming Cheltenham Festival as one of the horses in Champion Hurdle.
Even though Annie Power did not start as the favorite Cheltenham World Hurdle horses, but she came very close to beating More Of That. The 2014 season saw Annie Power make a major step up in the game by winning the likes of Don caster Mares’ Hurdle.
Annie Power’s odds in hurdle events started rising considerably since 2014 and it was a sign that she was now one of the horsesCheltenham wanted to feature the most as a Cheltenham runner. Overcoming a strong list of runners Cheltenham gave, Annie Power finally achieved the biggest glory.
Biography Place of birth: France Weight: 10-10 Career wins: 10 Foaled: 5 May 2008 Color: Bay Breeder: Hara's de La Roeselare & Mme M. Chateau Trainer: Fabrice Voucher & Willie Mullins UN de Sceaux initially began with hurdle events in the 2013-14 National Hunt season.
Staying undefeated in the first five races clearly showed a lot of potential as Cheltenham World Hurdle runners. During this period, he made the transition into one of the top Cheltenham World Hurdle horses after winning the PRI Hypotheses by beating Grande Course de Haies d’Auteur winner Remix, who is regarded as one of the top horses for Cheltenham.
UN de Sceaux started taking part in novice steeplechase events in the 2014-15 season. Despite not being a favorite among the horses in Cheltenham Festival 2015, UN de Sceaux managed to win the Ankle Challenge Trophy beating popular Cheltenhamhorses like Vibrato Val tat.
Even into the 2016 season, UN de Sceaux was still considered as a specialist when it comes to chase events and not among the top horses in Champion Hurdle. It did not stop UN de Sceaux from being paired up alongside Queen Mother Champion Chase horses like Sprinter Sacred.
Even though he did not emerge victorious, he remains as one of the top Queen Mother Champion Chase runners. Featuring as the top Cheltenham Champion Hurdle runners would be one of the main objectives of UN de Sceaux going forward.
Biography Place of birth: United Kingdom Weight: 11-7 Career wins: 9 Foaled: February 11th, 2010 Color: Bay Breeder: Rabbi Bloodstock Limited Trainer: John Golden & Willie Mullins Nichols Canyon is a British-born thoroughbred racehorse which started out well in flat races before being considered as one of the top Cheltenham World Hurdle runners.
One of the major events that elevated Nichols Canyon to the status of being a top Cheltenham Champion Hurdle runners was his victory over Daughter, who had been undefeated until then. Sired by none other than Authorized, who is himself regarded as one of the top Cheltenhamhorses after winning the likes of the International Stakes.
Nichols Canyon may have failed to win his debut race, after coming a close second, but he was already on his way to being considered as potential Cheltenham runners. Nichols Canyon made a prominent impact in the National Hunt novice season by managing a string of wins in 2015.
It was during the transfer to Ireland when Nichols Canyon started making progress as one of the top Cheltenham World Hurdle horses. It may be awhile before Nichols Canyon’s makes his mark as Queen Mother Champion Chase runners.
Biography Place of birth: France Weight: 11-7 Career wins: 8 Foaled: 23 April 2006 Color: Bay or brown Breeder: Christophe Male Trainer: Nicky Henderson Only Flying bolt and Ankle on 212 are regarded as better Queen Mother Champion Chase runners purely in terms of ratings.
Even though Sprinter Sacred has managed to be part of Champion Hurdle runners, he has always excelled in terms of Chase events. One of the prominent was a success at the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and it finally elevated him as one of the best Gold Cup horses.
This new status as one of the best Gold Cup runners did not create issues for Sprinter Sacred in that season as he managed to win several more major events. Cheltenham Gold Cup horses are truly changed upon the ability to sustain success for a long, but there was a major scare for Sprinter Sacred in the coming season.
Cheltenham World Hurdle horses started taking the attention off Sprinter Sacred during 2014, as numerous health issues prevented him from making a major impact. After no titles in 2014, Sprinter Sacred returned with a bang in 2015 with a couple of Chase victories to once again still fear into the Cheltenham World Hurdle runners.
Even though there was not much in the way of new titles in 2015, Sprinter Sacred maintained his status as one of the top horses in Cheltenham by staying unbeaten. Sprinter Sacred has a while to go before being considered as the besthorsesCheltenham witnesses in the upcoming season, but he always has potential as one of the Cheltenham runners.
Biography Place of birth: United Kingdom Weight: 11-0 Career wins: 10 Foaled: February 11th, 2010 Color: Bay Breeder: R F And S D Knife Trainer: Colin Tizzard Part of the reason why Thistle crack has already been considered as one of the top horsesCheltenham would witness in the upcoming event is due to its lineage.
It was sired by none other than Kay Tara, who managed to win two Irish St Levers and two Ascot Gold Cups at his peak. Other horses in Cheltenham that share its lineage are the likes of Carriers, Tea For Two, and Planet of Sound.
Cleared was bred by John Oakley, and he is one of the reasons for transforming talent into among the great Cheltenham Gold Cup runners ever witnessed. The step up towards being one of the top Cheltenhamhorses for Cleared came in the 2011-12 season when he made his debut and straightaway managed a victory.
It was clear that Cleared was going to be among the top Queen Mother Champion Chase runners, but such quick progress was not expected. The 2013-14 season would probably rank as one of the poorest for Cleared, as he failed to win major events and suffered a pelvic injury to be ruled out for 2013.
Cleared was not going to experience an elevated status as the favorite Gold Cup runners to win the tournament. It would not be surprising to see Cleared rated as one of the top Cheltenham Champion Hurdle runners for the next couple of years.
Biography Place of birth: Great Britain Weight: 11-10 Career wins: 9 Foaled: April 30th, 2006 Color: Bay Breeder: R T Kremlin Trainer: Colin Tizzard Cue Card has managed to win 14 steeplechase events to be considered as one of the top Cheltenham runners.
An incredible seven victories have been at Grade 1 level making Cue Card as one of the bestCheltenham Champion Hurdle runners around. Success at the Cheltenham Festival came through the Champion Bumper event and it made him one of the top Gold Cup horses.
His poor record as a Cheltenham World Hurdle runners is visible from the fact that most of the successes in the 2012-13 season were in chase events. Poor performance in the hurdle events is not a factor when it comes to considering the bestCheltenhamhorses, and Cue Card is certainly one of the bestCheltenham runners around.
The main criterion for festivals of horses in Cheltenham is to win major events, and Cue Card has managed to do this spectacularly. The year 2016 would be considered as a disappointment for Cue Card, one of the top horses in Cheltenham festivals, as the Retired Bowl is now the only solitary success.
Don Cossack showed a lot of promise that it would become a Cheltenham runner right from the young age after winning a novice hurdle and three National Hunt events in 2013. Don Cossack was sired by Sholokhov, who may not have been one of the Queen Mother Champion Chase horses, but managed to win numerous other top events.
After training in Ireland, Don Cossack returned to the United Kingdom to be part of the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle runners after the first win. Even in his first season, Don Cossack was proving his ability as among Cheltenham Gold Cup runners with Gilmore Novice Chase wins.
By spring, Don Cossack was being regarded as one of the top horses in Champion Hurdle after winning the Punches town Gold Cup and Selling Chase. The 2015-16 season will probably be regarded as the best year for Gold Cup horses as it saw the rise of Don Cossack as a winner at the Cheltenham Festival.
After entering into the 2016 Festival as one of the horses for Cheltenham victory, Don Cossack did not disappoint and went on to lift the Gold Cup. Being unable to win the King George VI Chase in the season would probably rank as one of the biggest disappointments for one of the top runners Cheltenham has seen.
However, it will not be long before Don Cossack is back in the frame for this event as one of the top Champion Hurdle runners. He remains as one of the top horsesCheltenham has seen and this status was reiterated by being crowned as the best of the Cheltenham World Hurdle horses in May 2016.
Biography Place of birth: France Weight: 11-10 Career wins: 10 Foaled: 9 May 2010 Color: Bay Breeder: Hara's De La Faisanderie Trainer: Philippe Peatier & Willie Mullins Regarded as one of the best Queen Mother Champion Chase runners around, Dougan came to prominence in the hurdle events.
He managed to finish second in his debut race, but that was not going to prevent a rise into one of the best Queen Mother Champion Chase horses. After having achieved a status as among the top Cheltenham Champion Hurdle runners, Dougan switched over to steeple chasing.
Despite starting at the back of the favorites field of Cheltenhamhorses, Dougan managed to come from behind and beat the likes of L’AMI Serge. This victory truly made everyone stand up and take notice of Dougan as a top Champion Hurdle runners.
Dougan’s trainer Willie Mullins maintains that the world is yet to be aware of the full capabilities of this horse as one of the top Cheltenham Gold Cup runners. Making an impact as the Gold Cup horses will be one of the main priorities for Dougan going forward.
Dougan may have had only two appearances as one of the runners Cheltenham had witnessed, but victories at the likes of Ankle Challenge Trophy have transformed him into coveted horsesCheltenham loves.