Cheltenham Festival 2020: 7 horses to keep high on your radar for Prestbury Park

Seven weeks to go!



We’re seven weeks out from the Cheltenham Festival – and some of you will have had your minds made up a long time ago and have long nailed your colours to the ante-post mast.

However, Cheltenham Trials day often puts some well-weighted spanners in the works. And then there’s this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival.

But do we take too much notice of shortening prices and good winter performances? Here’s 7 you need to keep onside for the mid-March fiesta.

1. Paisley Park, 10/11, Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle

I couldn’t not include the most likely winner at Prestbury Park in March and he’s my idea of an absolute banker.

This foolproof proposition once again blew away the opposition and he only ever improves as the year goes on.

We also clearly don’t have to worry about course form given his impressive tally already at the Cotswolds and Emma Lavelle says he’s only getting better.

Now there’s a thought at eight years of age.


Note: Prices and entries correct at time of publication but are ante-post prices and liable to change. Ante-post bets are not refunded if your selection fails to turn up on the day.

2. If The Cap Fits, 20/1, each-way, Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle

Went off as second favourite behind Paisley Park before finishing fifth, but the run should not be discounted as easily by punters as it has been by the odds-setters – where he is now a 20/1 shot in the ante-post list for the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle.

The son of Milan has a likeable profile and is made for the Stayers Hurdle having won the Grade 1 equivalent at Aintree last season. Won the Coral Hurdle over 2m 5f on seasonal debut at Ascot in November and a quick scoot through his profile shows he’s rarely out of the money on the big day.

3. Harry Senior, 10/1, Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle

Robbie Power’s drive into the back of Harry Senior and the six-year-old’s reaction to that shove was enough to convince me this fella will see out the 3m Albert Bartlett trip at the Festival and Colin Tizzard has indicated we may see him there.

He looks a stayer in the making and do the owners really want to go the Ballymore Novices Hurdle route and risk being gobbled up by Envoi Allen?

While Thyme Hill. Monkfish and Fury Road are no pushovers atop that AB market, and with the Grade 1 2m 6f Novice Hurdle on Saturday to come at the Dublin Racing Festival, there’s still a real sense that this Presenting gelding holds the class card.

4. King Roland, 33/1, Supreme Novices Hurdle

And while we look at this particular trial – one that I maintain oozes class – it’s worth pointing out that King Roland of Harry Fry’s looked every bit as good as the winner in terms of ability – he just didn’t stay.

He’s quoted at 33/1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle that opens the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, but I’d hold off on ante-post bets as he’s surely going to be around the same price on the day – particulalry with a few cards still to be played at the upcoming Dublin Racing Festival and Dovecote Hurdle at Kempton.

Even more intriguing could be a crack at the 2m 4f Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle on the final day.


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5. Bristol De Mai, 33/1, Cheltenham Gold Cup

It seems strange to say you shouldn’t rule out a Gold Cup third from the Gold Cup the year after but the bookies seem to think you can. However, I saw plenty from the famous colours to suggest there’s a big run in him again in the Blue Riband.

You can poke holes at the winner Santini’s jumping and use that as a case against Bristol De Mai, but given the way he travelled between obstacles, it’s not outside the realms of possibility that he’ll be as close to Nicky Henderson’s runner the next time they lock horns.

And for him to be five times the price of Santini? That’ll do for me.

6. Imperial Aura, 10/1, Close Brothers Chase

Backed off the boards on-course, it seems that Simply The Betts was going to be a good thing no matter what kind of impression Kim Bailey’s seven-year-old made.

While some would be tempted to mess with the trip to try and pull some more improvement out of him, I think the Imperial Racing Partnership would be mad to try anything other than the Close Brothers Novices; Handicap Chase at the Festival, for which he is the current 10/1 favourite for the second-last race on day one.

There’s nothing around him in the betting that worries me – and given the rating rise for finishing behind the well-bred winner should be fair – he’s not going to be crippled for his catching performance, either.


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7. Lalor, 16/1, Brown Advisory Plate

It’s likely we may have seen the winner of the 2m 4f Plate on the Thursday of the Festival – just who it is depends on the ground. Cepage saw off Spiritofthegames and Lalor with a bold front-running performance in Saturday’s Handicap Chase but may have spoiled his handicap mark for the mid-March fiesta in the process.

So it could pay to look a little further down the field.

The runner-up Spiritofthegames was third at the Festival last season off a mark of 147 and while he’ll likely be a couple of pounds higher this term, has the prospect of better ground to look forward too.

One of the biggest talking horses in the game for the past few seasons has been 2018 Aintree Grade One winning hurdler, Lalor.  A mixed campaign since – including when puled up in last season’s Arkle Chase when near the head of the market – the drop back to handicap company and step up in distance could pay dividends on spring ground in seven weeks’ time.

Note: Prices and entries correct at time of publication but are ante-post prices and liable to change. Ante-post bets are not refunded if your selection fails to turn up on the day.

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What do you think?