Cheltenham Festival Fever – The Big Guns to Watch Out For
After a thrilling and successful Festival Trials Day, we’ve got Cheltenham Festival Fever! There were plenty of clues from Saturday for potential Cheltenham Festival winners too and we’ve highlighted the runners and riders you should be watching out for from Trials Day, as well as a few more ‘big guns’ who’ll be hurdling at The Festival this March.
Rachael Blackmore on A Plus Tard
She’s become the most successful female jockey in British and Irish history after a breakthrough year in 2019. She now has six Grade 1 races to her name following success at Leopardstown, Fairytown and the Cheltenham Festival.
Last year she took 50-1 Minella Indo to success at Cheltenham Racecourse in the Albert Bartlett Chase and is coming in as the favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase on her mount, A Plus Tard. They’ve become a formidable duo, reigning in a number of G1 titles last season but with the likes of Altior and Cyrname awaiting him in the Champion Chase, this will indeed be the ultimate test.
Blackmore, who seems to only ride winners has become Henry de Bromhead’s number one jockey – who is a legend in his own right – and an icon for female jockeys across the nation. A victory in the Champion Chase will be the ideal start to the year for her and the team but the question is, will she be able to do it?
The bookies say yes, she can. A Plus Tard’s proven he’s a strong stayer, so keep your eyes on this pair.
Nico de Boinville on Altior and Santini
Nico de Boinville, who’s had a glittering career launched by the legendary Sprinter Sacre probably never thought that he or trainer, Nicky Henderson would have another great chaser in their midst, that was until Altior emerged.
The legendary horse had been unbeaten in 19 races for a number of years before the effects of a wind operation took its toll and saw the mighty horse suffer his first defeat. Altior has recently recovered from an abscess and as a result, was pulled out of a few races by trainer, Nicky Henderson who concluded that the horse wasn’t fit enough yet. But there are high hopes for the dual Champion Chase winner at The Festival in 2020. Henderson has reported that he’ll be back in top form by March where Altior will look to cement a third Champion Chase victory.
Can he step out of Sprinter Sacre’s shadow and redefine himself as one of the greatest in the sport?
Also running for the Boinville-Henderson team is up-and-coming powerhouse Santini, who Henderson believes is the forgotten horse this season. De Boinville’s runner breezed to glory by three and a half lengths in the Cotswold Chase against Bristol de Mai on Trials Day and has now jumped to second-favourite for the renowned Gold Cup Chase. But the Grade I chase will not be easy, as he’s up against last year’s winner, Al Boum Photo, 2018 winner Native River as well as Kemboy, Delta Work and Clan Des Obeaux.
He can slack off sometimes, as Nico said that he often needs to be pushed to come alive, though his run in the Cotswold Chase was a promising display. Either way, there is time for improvement ahead of his shot at the Gold Cup. Can de Boinville lead him to glory?
Bryony Frost on Frodon
Bryony Frost extended Ladies Day by 24 hours on St. Patrick’s Thursday last year after becoming the first ever female jockey to win a Grade 1 race at the Cheltenham Festival. Frodon didn’t let her down, going all the way to seal the title in the Ryanair Chase. She describes her connection with him as “a magic place to be.”
After a couple of knock backs this season, Frodon bounced back in the Silviniaco Conti Chase earlier this month, taking first place and slashing his odds for the races at Cheltenham. He’ll run in the Ryanair Chase again in 2020, which is shaping up to be one of the most exciting races of the four-day Festival – but the question remains, can Frodon defend his crown? The last to win successive races in the Ryanair Chase was Albertas Run back in 2011, so Bryony’s got a task ahead of her.
He’s also been entered in The Festival’s feature race finale, the Cheltenham Gold Cup alongside stable mate Clan Des Obeaux. Trainer, Paul Nicholls has reported Frodon to have plenty of “fuel in the tank” but no definite decisions to run him have been made yet.
The Festival is shaping up nicely and has attracted a field of top class horses, in all of it’s 28 races. It’s time to start thinking who to place those bets on! Take a read of our Festival Race Card & Horse Racing Tips Guide, to help you prepare and decide on a winner.