Well, here we are.
The final Tuesday of 2020 without the Cheltenham Festival in your life. While there were whispers of the Coronavirus (can we still call it that?) putting a dampener on the Festival, it’s more likely that some smart-arse syndicate will buy a horse and name it after the virus before entering it into the Bumper in four years’ time.
But we’re at the business end now. No more speculation, no more beating around the bush. The only thing people are interested in now are winners – and I’m going to give you my NAP for each of the four days.
One week to go!
There’s questions over a few of these and you can see why.
What last year showed us, and countless years prior, is that stayers win this race and one of these horses has been campaigned in muck, and over two-and-a-half miles to date.
That’s Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin. That fall at Newbury on debut could have been the breaking of him – but he’s gone to win by a combined 22 lengths in his next two runs.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have both said that horses that win this always go on to win over further.
Ruby has also since said Shishkin could be too fast for Willie’s leading hope Asterion Forlonge. If you can beat Willie’s leading hope, you’re just about there.
Champ leads the market for the race, but he’s been absolutely hammered on the preview circuit and I’d find it hard to disagree with that. He has class, but he has serious temperament and it’s not always a guarantee to get him settled.
Rising star Copperhead has been confirmed for the race but reading between the lines, the Tizzards are speaking about him like he’s going to take another year to fully find his gears.
I look towards Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton for an indicator. I’m not suggesting Slate House is the de facto favourite, off the back of that by the way.
But I took notice of Master Tommytucker who was well-fancied in both of his previous starts and who travelled strongly, before falling four out. I love his price and he’s a beautiful each-way play, given he’ll likely go off in front again and try to stretch them.
He’s some galloper.
His last run was a successive ‘F’ to eventual winner Who Dares Wins – the horse he beat on his sole chase victory.
You just feel this boy has a big race in him if he can iron out the kinks.
My favourite thing about A Plus Tard is the way he races off the pace.
He’s a serial stalker and instead of going on about how many other dangers there are in this field – and let me tell you, the once-slated two-and-a-half-mile jaunt around Prestbury Park is now shaping up to be a Festival highlight – I’m going to just ramble on about this horse’s profile.
He’s progressed from handicap company, to the best performer of 2019 at the same venue, to a genuine leading contender for this race – and I’d not have anyone tell me he’d be out of place in the Queen Mother, either.
Frodon will obviously fire off in front, but that’s going to set this race up for the smooth-travelling finisher. The Ryanair has been a platform for top two-mile horses – like the recently retired Un De Sceaux to combine their slick jumping, speed and stamina to devastating effect
This favourite matches that description.
I don’t see Bryony Frsot and Frodon grinding this one out from the front.
There wasn’t a hope in hell that this boyo wasn’t going off favourite had he not fallen at the last in the Grade One at Leopardstown in February.
His previous two wins over this distance were on vastly different ground and he hacked up in both.
While many will fall in love with the prospect of the market leader Solo, the murmurs of everyone at preview nights saying he’s the lay of Festival, occasionally prompt a second look at his lone run. There isn’t a chance in the world he’s a 3/1 shot.
The love-in for Allmankind is warranted of course, but it’s largely sourced in the fact he was just 10 lengths off of a St. James’s Palace Stakes winner in Circus Maximus, but that doesn’t always work out.
We’ve seen plenty of Flat studs fall face-first when it comes to this. As for Goshen? He jumps right. Best of luck correcting that at Cheltenham. Not to mention he’s been on the go since October.
It all points to Henry de Bromhead’s runner on the opening race of the final day.
*Prices and entries are correct at time of publishing but are subject to change. All are quoted as part of Paddy Power’s non runner no bet offer.