While it may only be just over a month since the Cheltenham Festival finished, I’m already looking forward to it all happening again in 2021. And while it seems an eternity away right now, it won’t be long in coming around again.
Will Al Boum Photo win another Cheltenham Gold Cup? I’m not as confident as I was this time last year. However, there are 10 horses that I really do fancy for festival honours. And if they were all under my roof, this is where I’d run them.
It’s fairly obvious that the three novice hurdle winners from this year will be hard to beat over fences next year. Shishkin in the Arkle is the first of them. He’s a brilliant jumper and I think he’ll go chasing. I think he was a brilliant winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, having made a mistake, and I think he’s a better jumper than Abacadabras. As a jockey, I always felt that a horse should go where they will win the most races. To me, Shishkin would look obvious in the Arkle.
He won at Cheltenham over 2m5f this year. He’s not short of speed and I think he’ll go chasing. His ultimate aim in life will be the Cheltenham Gold Cup and I think the Marsh Novices’ Chase, at next year’s festival, will be the ideal stepping stone for that.
He ultimately outstayed his rivals in the Albert Bartlett and he’s a fine, big, staying jumping horse. Looking into the future, even if Envoi Allen did go for the RSA, this lad could go for the National Hunt Chase even. But if they’re all under my roof, this is the race I’d be looking at for him. He’s every bit of a chaser to look at and I think he’ll be a spectacular horse next year over fences.
He’s a fine big horse and you even saw from his first run over hurdles at Down Royal that he’s a galloper and a stayer. He ran a blinder in the Albert Bartlett, when he was staying on at the finish, and he would look like a horse who would be pretty hard to beat in this race.
I thought Paisley Park was rock solid going to Cheltenham this year and obviously he was found to have a heart fibrillation afterwards. I’m sure he will recover from that 100% but now when you’re standing and looking at it, would you be taking a chance on him? Probably not. So, I think being a year older and with more racing under his belt, Thyme Hill could be the Stayers Hurdle winner. If he was mine, this is where I’d be looking at rather than going chasing.
Epatante was very good in this year’s Champion Hurdle and she looked rock solid. However, I think we may have seen a real contender to take her on in the Triumph Hurdle. I’ve never been a massive fan of five-year-olds heading for the Champion Hurdle but Espoir D’Allen did it and I reckon Goshen could be another five-year-old to win the Champion Hurdle as well.
Not that I’d be afraid to take on Honeysuckle again with ‘Benie’ but with her experience over fences already, she’d be an obvious contender for the new Mares Chase. I think Honeysuckle might stay over hurdles and that would make ‘Benie’ very difficult to beat in this race.
I think connections could very well stay hurdling with Honeysuckle, especially if Benie Des Dieux were to go over fences. The obvious danger to Honeysuckle would be Concertista, who bolted up in the Mares Novice Hurdle. Saying that, Honeysuckle is unbeaten in eight races now while Concertista is one from five. That says it all.
Maybe next year, we’ll get the Champion Chase that we dreamed of getting this year. By then, I think age may have caught up with Altior. I think Defi Du Seuil bombed out for no apparent reason this year. And I’d imagine with more racing under his belt, Chacun Pour Soi could only get better. So, I’d be having him for the Champion Chase.
I think inexperience caught Billaway out in this year’s Christie’s Foxhunters and he jumper poorly on the first circuit. After going a circuit, when I was watching it, I didn’t think he’d be able to run well enough to finish second. With that run under his belt, and with more experience next year, he’ll prove very hard to beat in the 2021 Christie’s Foxhunters.