Can Any of These Hot 2021 Cheltenham Festival Favourites Be Opposed?
Shishkin shows his class to power home in the Wayward Lad after a few mistakes throughout the race pic.twitter.com/b7UD3HnhiJ— Racing Post (@RacingPost) December 27, 2020
The old saying goes that you should never be afraid of one horse. That is as true at the major meetings like the Cheltenham Festival as it is during run of the mill midweek racing.
With those huge four days of the National Hunt calendar fast approaching, it is time to take stock of the warm favourites and take a view. Can they be opposed or is there just no case against the 2021 Cheltenham hotpots?
This year’s Arkle Challenge Trophy for novice chasers could be a much hotter race than the betting suggests. Shishkin, winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season, has not put a foot wrong over fences but been kept apart from his main British rival, Allmankind.
Nicky Henderson also has the Irish contingent to worry about. Stable companion Altior is the only horse to have stopped Emerald Isle raiders from winning the Arkle since 2014.
Willie Mullins has won four of the last six renewals, so his unexposed pair Energumene and Unexcepted are both unknown quantities. We’ll know more about them after the Irish Arkle, but Shishkin is not as solid as an odds-on chance should be.
Mullins inmate Monkfish has the measure of main market rival Latest Exhibition over both hurdles and fences for the Festival race best known as the RSA Chase.
There have also been hints from Paul Nicholls that dual Grade 2 winner and former stable companion Next Destination could go to Aintree instead of Cheltenham.
Shan Blue has jumped well over fences since being sent chasing for Dan Skelton and won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Despite that Grade 1 success and fluency when tackling the larger obstacles, all of his form is on flatter tracks, leaving Monkfish a worthy favourite.
Chacun Pour Soi
Yet another Mullins mount, Chacun Pour Soi is all the rage to finally end his Queen Mother Champion Chase hoodoo. He has three Grade 1s on his CV, but no experience of the course.
While that explains his Cheltenham odds of 5/4 (2.25) for Champion Chase glory with 888Sport, there is also the fact that all of Chacun Pour Soi’s rivals have questions hanging over them to consider.
Altior is 11 years old and no longer the force of old, while Politologue faces a much tougher task in retaining the two-mile championship than he did in winning it last season.
WWWWWWWWWWW— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) January 17, 2021
Envoi Allen does it again. pic.twitter.com/j5jZYRauge
With likely opposition running scared of his as yet unbeaten record, Envoi Allen is pretty much impossible to oppose for the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
While Gordon Elliott has campaigned his charge carefully, it was no mean feat giving away a Grade 1 penalty at Punchestown last time out.
They still haven’t got to the bottom of Envoi Allen yet after 11 races undefeated.
Only a fall or bad luck in-running can stop this one of our Cheltenham Festival favourites from completing a hat-trick and his odds-on price reflects that.