Cheltenham Festival Preview 2020 – Day 1
Tips are provided by The Finishing Lines, Andrew Halligan.
Cheltenham Festival 2020 – Supreme Novice Hurdle – 2m 1/2f
The 2020 Cheltenham Festival is nearly upon us and The Road to Cheltenham leads us to the Supreme Novice Hurdle, the race that gets heart pumping and the blood flowing is first up. This year is no different, and after the dust has settled on the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, I think I have cracked the winner for the 2020 Supreme Novice Hurdle.
So, the Nicky Henderson trained Shishkin is current 4/1 favourite with most firms including Betfair. Do I think he will win? No, but do I think the same colours will be in the winner’s enclosure? Yes.
That horse is the Willie Mullins trained Asterion Forlonge. This big grey gelding is unbeaten in his racing career, Asterion Forlonge is to me, the winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle.
He scraped home in a bumper back in November but he was a different proposition when sent over hurdles, bolting up in a maiden hurdle at Naas by 10 lengths and then went on to win the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle over 2 miles at the Dublin Racing Festival, beating 5/4 favourite Easywork by 9 1/2 lengths and a further 4 lengths back to Mt Leinster who both bolted up in their previous race.
The form is rock solid and his profile reminds me of a previous Supreme Novice winner for his trainer in Champagne Fever.
As like Champagne Fever, Asterion Forlinge sits up with the pace and just goes on an end to end gallop which beaks the hearts of his rivals. The manner of his victory at Leopardstown, from his jumping to his will to win and his out and out gallop is something that will take a lot of beating in a Supreme.
To me, Asterion Forlonge is a huge price at 13/2 with William Hill. You take into account that he Willie Mullins has an unbelievable record in the Supreme Novice Hurdle and the fact that only last year Klassical Dream won the same race at Leopardstown before taking the Supreme a month later only enhances my confidence that Asterion Forlinge will take one hell a lot of stopping on March 10th.
One that I also like at a bigger price is the Henry de Bromhead trained, Captain Guinness. Last seen when beaten narrowly by Andy Dufrene, who himself had a serious chance of playing a part in this only for him not to be entered, but the way Captain Guinness when in race at Punchestown made me think that his raw ability alone could be enough for him to play a huge roll in the finish. Only for his didn’t jump the last hurdle great at Punchestown we could be talking about another unbeaten horse going into Cheltenham.
He is more than a fair price at 16/1 with Paddy Power as there could be a whole lot more to come from this Henry de Bromhead gelding.
Tips for Supreme Novice Hurdle
Win – Asterion Forlonge @ 13/2 with William Hill
Each Way – Captain Guinness @ 16/1 with Paddy Power
Cheltenham Festival 2020 – Arkle Novice Chase – 2m
This is one of the races that I most look forward to each year. The Arkle Novice Chase this year looks to have found another 2-mile chasing superstar trained by Henry de Bromhead in the shape of Notebook.
Rated only 135 over hurdles you would be hard push to say he was an Arkle contender at the start of the season, but, I seen something in him that made me put him up at 25/1 for my ante-post pick for the Arkle on The Finishing Line YouTube Podcast. Plus, Henry has done this before with a 113 hurdler and turned him into a Champion Chase winner, that horse been Special Tiara.
Since going over fences this year Notebook has taken all before him. Beating Eclair De Beaufeu, who since won the Grade B handicap chase at the Dublin Racing Festival, the highly-rated Moon Over Germany in a Grade 2 chase at Punchestown, the hugely talented Fakir D’oudairies (giving him 7lb) in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase and only recently beating crack front runner Cash Back in the Arkle Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival.
With all that form and class behind him (wait for it)…
He is still 3/1 with Paddy Power, Betway and many more. I can’t believe this if I’m honest, he jumps so well, travels like a dream and only does enough to win. He has everything.
I would go as far as to say that he is my NAP for day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival.
For those looking for an each-way price, I would not put you off backing the Olly Murphy trained Brewinupastorm. He has very good form as a novice hurdler and has taken to fences quite well, and at 12/1 with bet365, I think he is a bit overpriced.
Tips for Arkle Novice Chase
Win – Notebook @ 3/1 with Betway
Each Way – Brewinupastorm @ 12/1 with bet365
Cheltenham Festival 2020 – Mares Hurdle – 2m 4f
Now, this is either going to be one of the races of the festivals if we get the two superstar mares going head to head, and they would be Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle.
Since Benie Des Dieux bolted up in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park there has been serious talk of her going for the Stayers Hurdle and having a crack at Paisley Park.
The same can be said for Honeysuck after he victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle which has seen her shoot to the top of the betting. If they both lined up we would be in for one hell of a race.
But with that said I can not see both running in this, but if one does end up taking their chance here be it Benie Des Dieux or Honeysuckle it would be impossible to look past either of them.
Let’s look at this tho as if Honeysuckle has been declared for the Champion Hurdle and Benie Des Dieux has been declared for the Stayers Hurdle.
If we take both of them out then it becomes wide open, or does it?…
I think there is one waiting to pounce if the two wonder mares are not declared to run here and that mare is Stormy Ireland.
Last seen taking the Grade 3 Limestone Lad hurdle over 2 miles, Stormy Ireland has what it takes to fill in for her stablemate. Place in last years renewal where Benie Des Dieux fell at the last with the race at her mercy, Stormy Ireland has seemed to have improved again this year and at 9/1 right now with William Hill, I think she is a cracking beat.
I have no doubt that she will reverse for with last years winner Roksana and where you go down past here there is not much strength and depth to this race.
So, to sum it up if Benie Des Dieux or Honeysuckle turn up here they win, but, if both take on other targets then I think it is Stormy Irelands for the taken.
Tips for Mares Hurdle
Win – Benie Des Dieux 4/5 or Honeysuckle 5/2 (whoever turns up)
Each Way – Stormy Ireland @9/1 with William Hill
Cheltenham Festival 2020 – National Hunt Chase – 3m6f
After last years controversy where non-racing people were up in arms over tired horses falling and so on, the National Hunt Chase is now run over 3m6f.
But it does not take away from what a great race we are in store for. The Willie Mullins trained Carefully Selected is current 4/1 favourite with Paddy Power and he is closely followed by Champagne Classic at 5/1 with Betfair.
To me, it is between those two, but who do I side with?
The answer to that is Carefully Selected. He has everything you need to win this, back class, stays longer than the mother-in-law, and jumps perfectly well. Granted his jumping was all over the place last time out, I still think the master trainer will have him spot on come Match 10th and you will unlikely see any jumping errors.
Champagne Classic is very close behind him and as you might remember Michael O Leary once said that he was their worst horse in training after he won the Martin Pipe, but my how he was wrong. He beat last years National Hunt Chase second in Discorama at Wexford last October and then since went on to be second to Battleoverdoyen, but you would expect him to come on leaps for that run.
But it was one hard call but, I’ve been looking forward to Carefully Selected going over this sort of trip all year. Again I have no doubt that his jumping will be sorted by the time Cheltenham comes around.
An each-way alternative might well be the out and out stayer Sam Brown. He has come back from a mammoth absence to win two back to back chase at Lingfield by 22 lengths and then he went on to win a Grade 2 at Haydock by 15 lengths. Sam Brown could well be a fly in the ointment at 16/1 with Betway.
Tips for National Hunt Chase
Win – Carefully Selected @ 4/1 with Paddy Power
Each Way – Sam Brown @ 16/1 with Betway
Cheltenham Festival 2020 – Champion Hurdle – 2m 1/2f
The 2020 Champion Hurdle is by far one of the most open races of this season festival. You have the Nicky Henderson trained Epatante as current favourite and then you have the wonder mare in Honeysuckle in there at 5/1.
There are so many questions about most of this field. Take last season Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills who has failed to impress in his two runs this season, Saldier who we haven’t seen since last year due to injury and then you have last season Supreme Novice winner Klassical Dream who has done everything wrong but still has you hang on to hope that he can put it all together.
So with all that said, if Honeysuckle goes for this I think she will be a tough nut to crack with her 7lb allowance. She won the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival in gritty determination and I think she will improve once again for that run.
Tips for Champion Hurdle
Win – Honeysuckle @ 5/1 with Ladbrokes