Things are really ramping up in the racing world. Despite still being in January, entries for the Championship races in the 2021 Cheltenham Festival have been submitted. These are four of the biggest races and include the much-coveted Cheltenham Gold Cup.

As such many of the online bookmakers have already moved from ante-post odds. They are now offering Non Runner Money Back which means if you place a bet and your horse doesn’t run, you get your money back. If you’re a mobile user then check out the new betting apps to find the best odds as this can give you a better return if your bet wins.

Of course, plenty of the horses entered will not make it starting tape. Quite a few already have entries across multiple races as connections decide which routes to take. So as the next few weeks roll by potential runners will be shifted around or withdrawn completely. The final line-ups will not be known until much closer to the race time.

So with that in mind, we’ve had a look at the potential runners and winners for the big race on each of the four days.

Tuesday 16th March 2021 – Champion Hurdle

Epatante heads the market as she bids to retain her crown for the main event on the first day. Her seasonal reappearance was pleasing enough as she saw off the likes of Sceau Royal and Silver Streak at Newcastle in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle back in November.

She somewhat underperformed when putting in a laboured effort behind Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park. The switch to front-running tactics paid huge dividends for the Evan Williams trained seven-year-old.

There will be plenty of challengers to set the pace here, so Silver Streak isn’t guaranteed to get into the same established rhythm.

With doubts over that and the Henderson horses failing to fire on all cylinders this season, the horse I am drawn to is Sharjah.

Willie Mullins has taken this prize four times in the last decade with the dual winning Hurricane Fly, Faugheen and Annie Power.

Sharjah comes into the race on the back of a career-best when winning the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown over the Christmas period. This doesn’t look to be the classiest of Champion Hurdle races that we are ever likely to witness and there is room for a potential improver lurking.

The one that could well be anything is Song For Someone. His win in the International Hurdle has been franked and he is a previous course and distance winner. If you are looking for something offering each way value, he certainly appeals.

Selection: SHARJAH
Next Best: SONG FOR SOMEONE

Wednesday 17th March 2021 – Queen Mother Champion Chase

Chacun Pour Soi should take the world of beating in this exciting renewal of the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

He has won his last three races with the minimum of fuss. The only horse to have finished in front of him since he joined Willie Mullins is a possible Gold Cup contender in A Plus Tard.

Chacun Pour Soi was pulled out of this race rather late in the day last year owing to an abscess in one of his feet. Aside from disappointing racing enthusiasts, there was no harm done though and he has done nothing but progress since.

Politologue was the main benefactor of Chacun Pour Soi’s defection last year as he annihilated a weak field in what was a completely one-sided affair.

He was also the runner-up in 2019 and with Altior returning and Chacun Pour Soi scheduled to line up against him here, the striking grey may have to make do with minor honours only yet again here.

SELECTION: CHACUN POUR SOI
NEXT BEST: ALTIOR

Thursday 18th March 2021 – Stayers Hurdle

Most punters’ attention will be drawn to the battle likely to develop at the head of the market as Paisley Park and Thyme Hill jostle for favouritism.

The former Champion Paisley Park was found to have a defibrillating heart after last year’s renewal that was won by Lisnagar Oscar. However, he appears to have put that issue to one side as he has returned in great form this season.

He clearly improved from his Newbury reappearance to get up in the closing stages on the Long Walk Hurdle to deny Thyme Hill. The ground was certainly not in his favour that day, so the guts he showed to outstay the Hobbs runner was all the more impressive.

There is a horse entered for this though that could shake up both market rivals in the guise of Sire Du Berlais. He has won the last two renewals of the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle at the Festival and seems to have this as his main target this time around.

As in previous years, he has had a prep run at Leopardstown prior to the Festival. But he comes to himself in the spring and a much better performance is likely to be seen.

He is proven at three miles and Gordon Elliott will have him fully wound up for the occasion. He looks the alternative value to the front two in the betting and he shouldn’t be too far away at the end.

SELECTION: SIRE DU BERLAIS
NEXT BEST: PAISLEY PARK

Friday 19th March 2021 – Gold Cup

The Irish look to have a particularly strong hand in this year’s renewal of the Cheltenham showpiece. So many of the protagonists hail from the other side of the Irish Sea including Al Boum Photo, Minella Indo, Kemboy, and A Plus Tard.

Al Boum Photo comes here for a majestic “three-peat” in an effort to emulate the mighty Best Mate who won three Gold Cups on the bounce almost two decades ago for Henrietta Knight.

He has taken what is now a familiar route on his journey to Cheltenham by turning up at Tramore for the Savills’ New Years Day Chase and winning it in emphatic fashion for the past three years. In his latest romp, he saw off the attentions of stablemate Acapella Bourgeois by no fewer than nineteen lengths.

In what was a phenomenal renewal of the Savills Chase at Leopardstown a few days earlier, A Plus Tard was given an inspirational ride to deny the very game Kemboy who had all but put his seal on the race.

The return to three miles was clearly in his favour and the further they went, the better he looked. The extra two furlongs here are unlikely to cause him any great concern and with previous winning Festival experience, he has to rate as a very live danger.

He is my preference of the two Henry De Bromhead runners. The other being Minella Indo who suffered an uncharacteristic fall in the same race won by A Plus Tard. I personally shy away from horses who have fallen prior to coming to Cheltenham as the fences there can catch them out unexpectedly.

Al Boum Photo has a lot in his favour and no surprise if we see history repeating itself which would be a phenomenal achievement for all involved.

SELECTION: AL BOUM PHOTO
NEXT BEST: A PLUS TARD



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