4 Key Questions Ahead of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Festival (10th-13th March) is approaching fast, and the key fixture of the national hunt racing season looks to be as intriguing as ever. Of course, these top-level events tend to build a narrative throughout the year, which tend to resolve in an explosive conclusion on race day.
But which questions are punters asking in the lead up to this year’s festival? Below we will look at a few of the key issues discussed by racing fans and experts, and ponder how they will impact the festival. While there are many things to talk about, we have boiled it down to these four key questions:
Can Altior Rediscover His Magic to Make History?
At the time of writing Altior is a few days away from his second outing of the season, and everyone will be holding their breath. Altior, of course, is no ordinary horse, having broken the world record with 19 consecutive jumps race victories. Defeat, albeit a narrow one, finally came in November 2019, leading some to question whether his reign as king of the two milers would come to an end. Altior might bounce back at Newbury, but it is Cheltenham that counts. He is going for his fifth grade 1 at the festival and his third consecutive Champion Chase. History and legacy are on the line like never before.
Will “The Machine” Delight the Crowds One Last Time?
Few horses are as beloved as the enigmatic Faugheen, whom the Irish fans fondly nickname “The Machine”. At the grand old age of 12, he is set to make his chasing debut at Cheltenham with an entry in the Marsh Novices’ Chase most likely. At the moment, Faugheen is the 6/1 favourite for the Grade 1 race. Few could argue with that give Faugheen’s performances in his three previous chases, but pulling it out of the bag at Cheltenham is a different prospect. If he can do it, and sign off on his legendary career in style, then it could be the story of the festival.
Will a New Star Be Born in Envoi Allen?
Perusing through the latest Cheltenham odds & tips by 888 sports and other bookies, one name seems to feature more prominently than others – Envoi Allen. The unbeaten 6yo made his debut at Cheltenham last year, winning the Champion Bumper. But can be almost certain that bigger prizes await. The natural choice seems to be the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, with Envoi Allen positioned as the 6/4 favourite in that one. The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Champion Hurdle are also options, but he will be among the favourites wherever Gordon Elliott puts him. Remember the name because Envoi Allen looks like a superstar.
How to Solve the Gold Cup Puzzle?
Being arguably the most prestigious event in national hunt racing – even ahead of the Grand National for some – there is going to be no shortage of quality in the Gold Cup. However, this year it looks particularly stacked with worthy candidates: Al Boum Photo (4/1), Santini (9/2), Delta Work (5/1), Lostintranslation (6/1) and Clan Des Obeaux (7/1) all look like potential Gold Cup winners. Of course, Al Boum Photo proved that point by winning last year, but there are perhaps a dozen candidates with similar credentials in the lead up to the big race. Certainly, the ground and hints from trainers will have an impact on the betting, but it looks like we will shape up for the Gold Cup without momentum behind any individual candidate.