In just a few weeks, the UK national hunt racing season reaches its climax with the Cheltenham Festival (10th-13th March). Four days of action, featuring 28 superb races and plenty of drama. However, as with every year at the festival, there are always stories within the races; battles, if you will, that help capture the imagination of the spectators, and that can make the festival a vintage one.
Below, we are going to look at the most exciting rivalries in the lead up to the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. The prospect of seeing some of these horses go head to head has racing fans and punters salivating, Here’s what we are looking forward to most:
A Three-Way Battle for the Champion Chase
In recent times, the Queen Mother Champion Chase has been characterised by having one big favourite in the race. Sometimes, the favourites waltz home (Altior, Sprinter Sacre), whereas other times they come up short (Douvan). This year, however, we see an enthralling three-way tie at the top of the betting markets with Defi Du Seuil (2/1, Bet365), Altior (2/1) and Chacun Pour Soi (5/2) all favourites for the Cheltenham Festival showcase on Ladies’ Day.
It sets up a fascinating battle, with the two claimants hoping to take Altior’s crown as the undisputed king of the 2-mile chase. Bookmakers have changed their minds on several occasions on this one, and you could make a case for them all. This could be one of the great Cheltenham races.
Min and A Plus Tard Contest Ryanair
Min is an interesting horse; one whom it seems might have had a much better record (it’s still very, very good regardless) with a little luck. Indeed, Min only seems to lose to great horses, including three times to Altior at the Cheltenham Festival.
The 9yo is very much fancied to win the Ryanair Chase, with a best price of 7/2 from Betfair. The favourite, however, is the much younger 11/4 shot A Plus Tard. The question for the race is this: Can A Plus Tard prove himself to be a great horse by defeating the wily Min? As we have seen with Min’s history, just being good won’t be enough.
The Marsh Novices’ Chase Can Steal the Show
The racing world will be watching how Altior gets on in the Champion Chase. But if we were to pick a race that might steal the show this year, the Marsh Novices’ Chase would be top of the list. It sees the legendary Faugheen (8/1) take on talented novices like race favourite Allaho (5/1) and Itchy Feet (6/1, odds from William Hill).
Can the beloved Irish star Faugheen put on one last show for the fans at Cheltenham? Or will the newcomers put an end to the career of the horse known as “The Machine”? If it is the former, then you will see one of the greatest reactions from the crowd in Cheltenham’s history. If the latter, then it’s possible a new star will be born.
A Super-Charged Mares’ Hurdle
The Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle always delivers a fascinating race, but this year looks like delivering a punchout between two of the best female horses in national hunt racing – Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle. The former gets the nod as favourite right now, coming in at a price of 4/5 with William Hill.
Honeysuckle (15/8) is capable of winning this, however. It’s intriguing as both horses have been rumoured to go for the more prestigious Champion Hurdle, but this duel could eclipse anything that goes on in the feature race.