Cheltenham Festival: 4 horses to watch who’ve been there and done that at Prestbury Park

It usually pays to keep an eye on horses who have performed at the Cheltenham Festival in previous years.

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Festival form. It usually pays to keep an eye on horses who have performed at the Cheltenham Festival in previous years. Story checks out to be fair. Cheltenham is a tricky track. There are plenty of turns and undulations to be navigated. The old course, used on the first two days, is particularly tight.

Then there is the hullabaloo that comes with 60,000 racegoers. The horses will rarely face such noise and distraction in the preliminaries. Those that have run to form are likely to do so again. Mind you, I wouldn’t be put off a strong fancy solely because of a sub par festival run.


That was one of the knocks on Paisley Park going into last year’s Stayers Hurdle. Epatante is a similar favourite this time around. She blew out last season. It would be unwise to dismiss her on the basis of one run though. Here are four horses that have run well at the meeting previously. I suspect they’ll make a good fist of the 2020 version too.


The form of last year’s bumper was rightly queried. Due to the unseasonably dry winter plenty of trainers opted not to risk their young horses. The form couldn’t be working out much better though. Envoi Allen, Abacadabras and Thyme Hill have all kicked on in their novice hurdle campaign. It’s possible they will win the three novice hurdles at this year’s Festival between them. Unlikely I know but you wouldn’t need to contact NASA to work out the odds.

Back in sixth that day, beaten about 8 lengths, was Sempo. He just lacked a bit of speed at the business end. This scopey sort looks a stayer in the making. He’s in the Ballymore, and Albert Bartlett but my hunch is he will represent the class of 2019 in the Coral Cup. Connections should be relatively happy with a mark of 142. He disappointed on seasonal bow in Fairyhouse. That was over two miles though. He improved for a step up in trip when chasing home Cobbler’s Way in Leopardstown over Christmas. That represents strong novice hurdle form.

Sempo made no mistake when going in at odds on in Thurles. That wasn’t the greatest race but the fourth gave the form a boost recently. Sempo’s jumping can still be a bit careful. It has got better with every run though. I expect it to stand up to the big field test the Coral Cup will provide. 12/1 about this progressive, talented sort looks fair.


Sticking with the 2019 Champion Bumper theme, Abacadabras must go close in the Supreme. The ability to handle the course could prove crucial here. Asterion Forlonge jumped markedly to his right when winning on penultimate start in Naas. He was straighter in Leopardstown last time but it must still rate a concern on this sharper track. Abacadabras was a bit wayward himself last season. He ran out in Leopardstown, and looked a bit lairy in Cheltenham too. He seems like a much more professional model this time round. I rate the Royal Bond Hurdle that he finished second in as red hot form.

Envoi Allen looks a generational talent. Darvers Star in particular, and Turnpike Trip to a degree, have also advertised that form since. Abacadabras didn’t have to repeat that effort when subsequently winning a race that fell asunder in Leopardstown. Shiskin and Asterion could easily prove the real deal. I think Abacadabras is proven though. I’m surprised he isn’t closer to them in the betting. He rates a value play in the race.

Aso has already placed in a couple of Ryanairs. He’s a big price again this time around. Maybe a little too big. Lat year’s renewal looks strong form. Aso had Road To Respect, Monalee and Un De Sceaux in behind. He returned this season in Wetherby. That run in the Charlie Hall was full of promise. He travelled like the best horse before a combination of the trip and taxing ground found him out. His two subsequent runs need forgiving.


Both were on right handed tracks though. Aso seems much happier going left handed. He hasn’t run since December. That’s not a massive worry. He goes well fresh. He also loves Cheltenham. It’s possible he might just lack the class of a Min. He’s a much bigger price though. Any rain would be welcome. The long term forecast seems to be changing by the day so I’m reluctant to predict the ground. Aso should run a solid race whatever the weather does.

Finally to the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Concertista was a fag paper away from winning this last year. She was 66/1 that day. Fair enough. It was her first run for the guts of two years, and also her hurdling debut. That may not have been a vintage renewal but I’m not convinced this year’s is much cop either. Concertista has been building to a peak effort. She put in a dismal run on her November comeback. A slightly less dismal effort came in a decent maiden hurdle over Christmas.

Her latest effort when third in a mares handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival was much more like it. She looked the winner for most of that race. Maybe the trip stretched her. Maybe she comes alive in the spring. I’m expecting a career best next week. Logically she has to improve on last year’s effort. Even a repeat of it would see her go close. 12/1 looks too big.

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What do you think?