We are less than a week away from the start of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
In the final part of his Cheltenham Festival preview, SAM TURNER (Robin Goodfellow) takes a look at the big-race trends and contenders for day four.
Paul Townend riding Al Boum Photo winning the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup last year
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
The last 21 winners ran between 18 and 55 days prior to tackling this event Willie Mullins is 0-27 since Scolardy (2002) Nine of the last 10 winners tackled either the Finesse, Adonis or Spring Juvenile last time out.
Arguably didn’t need to improve on his French form to win the Adonis Hurdle with authority and, although the time was nothing special, he did little more hack round in essence. Clearly he could step forward again and, if he handles this different track, must take high rank.
Exuberant front-runner who has translated a good level of ability on the level to his new vocation. There was a concern connections wouldn’t be able to harness his headstrong tendencies, but he has seen out races at Chepstow and Cheltenham (working out well) strongly and his swift hurdling another asset.
Harry Skelton rides Allmankind clear the last to win The Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow
Has transferred the promise of a profitable flat campaign to his new vocation even if his hurdling has left a little to be desired on occasion. This race demands another step up from him, but it is difficult to see where his progression may end given his huge engine, even if his tendency to jump right may not make life easy in this better race.
Blotted his copybook with a late fall at Leopardstown in the Spring Hurdle but had previously looked a juvenile going places and a little early to write him off just yet.
Has taken a while to find his stride over hurdles, but in typical Paul Nicholls fashion his juvenile has improved with each outing this term. Finished powerfully to score at Haydock last time and could be suited by the long run to the final hurdle and the possibility of a pace collapse.
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
14 of the last 15 winners had won or placed in a Graded novice hurdle 7 of the last 15 winner had won the Hyde, Bristol or Classic that season (from 20 runners) Penhill is Willie Mullins’ only winner from 35 runners, while only one French-bred runner has won in the last 14 renewals.
Unbeaten in three starts over hurdles, including with a game and hard-fought success in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury last time. Unfortunately, that race has a shocking record when it comes to festival novice hurdles so he needs to overcome that hoodoo.
Richard Johnson riding Thyme Hill (L) to win The Betway Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury
Has been tremendously impressive in winning two staying hurdles at Fairyhouse and Thurles since the middle of December, powering to wide-margin wins on deep ground. Has appreciated the switch to a more patient ride and looks a major player with conditions likely to suit.
Has impressed in his hurdling starts to date, even in defeat when Abacadabras possessed too much pace over an inadequate two miles at Navan. Has thrived since being stepped up in trip with victories over Andy Dufresne and Cobbler’s Way and boasts class and staying power in abundance.
A very likeable type who is another to have further improvement since stretching out in trip. Won well on Trials day at Prestbury Park in January, confirming the promise of his Chepstow success a month beforehand and, with five hurdling appearances under his belt, boasts the much-needed experience required for a race of this nature.
Not seen since hammering Monkfish by seven lengths at Fairyhouse last November but could prove a threat to all if allowed to take his chance. Is a second season novice hurdler so has a little more experience than some and his Irish point success will also stand him in good stead.
3.30 Magners Gold Cup
The last 20 winners had already won a Grade 1 Only two winners this century failed to finish 1st or 2nd last time out Four of the past nine winners ran in the previous season’s RSA Chase 11 of the last 12 winners had run no more than three times during the season
A gallant runner-up in last year’s RSA Chase, Santini has polarised opinion this term with some feeling he is over-rated and others of the opinion there is more under the bonnet. A workmanlike Sandown comeback preceded a strong, staying performance at Cheltenham in the Cotswold Chase. That race has been a poor trial historically for this event but few will finish as powerfully at the end of a severe stamina
Santini has polarised opinion since finishing as a runner-up in last year’s RSA Chase
AL BOUM PHOTO
Spread-eagled a good field in last year’s renewal and has undergone exactly the same preparation with a smooth win at Tramore preceding his return to Prestbury Park. Only eight and remains open to plenty of improvement while the form of his Tramore success has taken a handsome boost as the runner-up scored by 15-lengths on his next start.
Played his part in a terrific renewal of the RSA Chase last year when an honourable third, a place behind Santini. One or two scruffy errors cost him dear that day and there were reports he hadn’t taken the travelling to the UK that well so he could easily finish closer to his old adversary here with another year on his back. Two Grade 1 Irish wins this winter confirm he is a high-class chaser.
Looked a horse going places early season with victories at Carlisle and in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Blotted his record with a lacklustre display at Kempton in the King George but excuses came to light which can explain that dismal showing and he remains a horse of huge interest at this level.
CLAN DES OBEAUX
Two-time King George winner who was beaten 11 lengths in last year’s renewal when arguably ridden too aggressively. Reportedly a stronger horse this year and campaigned slightly differently which should see him arrive a fresh horse so a live chance of improving on that placing.