Cheltenham 2022: Races to Watch That Aren’t the Gold Cup
Horse racing enthusiasts and casual fans, the Cheltenham Gold Cup requires no introduction. There are several editions around the world, including across the Irish Sea, yet none can compare to the British version. It’s so big that it’s arguably on the same level as the Grand National, an event that transcends popular culture.
However, sometimes the build-up to the event is enough to turn you off the race completely. You don’t want the pomp and ceremony. You want world-class action. Here, the smart thing to do is to turn to these substitutes this year as the horses will do the talking, not the analysts.
The Champion Chase
The Champion Chase is an incredibly prestigious competition, yet this year, it has an extra edge. This year, Shishkin versus Energumene 2 will take place on the second day of the festival, with the Champion Chase betting quoting both as the firm favourites at 4/5 and 3/1, respectively. The next contender is ranked as a 13/2 shot.
Don’t worry about the lack of rivals because this race is all about the horses that competed in possibly the best race of the year at Ascot. Neither gave an inch, with Shishkin reeling in Energumene with only a couple of hundred yards left. As far as entertainment goes, it was packed with excitement.
Of course, everybody is expecting a repeat of the original at Cheltenham. Only this time, the stakes are higher as the race is arguably second to the Gold Cup in terms of its reputation. If the standard is anywhere near Ascot, the Champion Chase will be compelling viewing.
The Champion Hurdle
Sometimes, a racehorse is too good for the competition and there’s barely a chance of them being beaten. It’s quite literally a one-horse race, and that’s fine. Typically, we want to see drama and suspense, regardless of the victor, but in the Champion Hurdle’s case, there’s an extenuating factor – Honeysuckle.
Not only is the mare unbeaten in 14 attempts, but she takes on the men and shows them a thing or two. Last year, for instance, Rachael Blackmore rode her home to beat Sharjah by over six lengths in the Champion Hurdle. Appreciate It has the unenviable task of dethroning her this time around.
But judging by Honeysuckle’s performance in the Dublin Festival in Leopardstown – she comfortably beat Zanahiyr by six-and-a-half-lengths – her odds of 1/2 are well-deserved. If she is defeated, you’ll get your drama, so it’s a win-win situation!
The Supreme Novices Hurdle
Sir Gerhard strikes in the @tatts_ireland Novice Hurdle!
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 6, 2022
Unlike the Champion Chase and Champion Hurdle, the Supreme Novices Hurdle probably has the deepest field in the entire festival. Unsurprisingly, the unpredictability of the race is what makes it a must-see on the opening day. Going off the betting alone, four runners have bona fide opportunities to cross the winning post first.
For instance, Constitution Hill is the 9/4 favourite right now, despite not having the highest official rating. That honour goes to Sir Gerhard after the Cheltenham Festival winner destroyed his Grade 1 opponents at Leopardstown and was moved to 152p in the ratings, the highest for a novice.
Dysart Dynamo, meanwhile, made all the running in a competitive edition of the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle, while Jonbon is going from strength to strength after every run, including the Supreme Novices Hurdle trial. Making a prediction now would be stupid, which is how you know it’s a race worth your attention. Not a bad way to kick off Cheltenham 2022.
The Gold Cup is Cheltenham’s blue-riband event, and rightly so. However, these races command respect because they are filled with quality, and that makes them unpredictable.