Cheltenham Festival: 3 things learned from 2021 fiesta at Prestbury Park

Timeform's boffins take a look at the key talking points from the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

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Allaho proves himself the best horse in training

Willie Mullins began the week with Chacun Pour Soi (176) as Timeform’s top-rated jumper, but that accolade has now passed to his stable-companion Allaho (178) after his spectacular win in the Ryanair Chase. Allaho left a string of high-class chasers trailing in his wake as he tanked along in front, jumping superbly and putting most of his rivals out of their comfort zone. Last year’s winner Min was the only one to keep tabs on him for most of the way, but he cracked after three out, allowing Allaho to draw right away and land the spoils by 12 lengths.

The clock backed up the visual impression, and Allaho’s performance is right up with the race’s previous best winners, Cue Card in 2013 and Vautour in 2016. As for the future, aggressive rides over this sort of trip might well prove to be Allaho’s optimum, but his trainer clearly hasn’t completely abandoned the idea of trying him again over three miles as he mentioned the King George as a possibility next season. He’s only a seven-year-old, too, so there should be plenty to look forward to with him.

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Allaho King George (Antepost)

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Shishkin looks a worthy successor to Sprinter Sacre and Altior

This season’s novice chasers are an exceptional bunch and people will have their own view about which is the most talented, but Shishkin (171P) comfortably sets the standard on Timeform ratings after sauntering to a 12-length success in the Arkle. His task was clearly made easier by Energumene’s absence, while he also benefited from Allmankind and Captain Guinness softening each other up by battling for the lead, but he still enhanced his already lofty reputation with such an authoritative display.

Shishkin has already shown himself to be a horse of extraordinary ability, while the large ‘P’ attached to his Timeform rating denotes that he is still open to significant improvement. In fact, he has the potential to achieve the sort of figure only the all-time greats have mustered – the obvious benchmarks to look out for down the line are those set by his illustrious stablemates Altior (180) and Sprinter Sacre (192) at their peak.

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Shishkin Champion Chase (Antepost)

Ferny Hollow will be very much one to follow

Appreciate It (160p) and Bob Olinger (159p) are Timeform’s highest-rated novice hurdlers in training after both ran out dominant winners of their respective races at Cheltenham. Appreciate It won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by 24 lengths – the widest winning margin in any race over hurdles at the Festival this century – while Bob Olinger was similarly impressive in winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by seven-and-a-half lengths, especially as that was a deeper race than the Supreme.

In addition to the huge talent of the winners, one takeaway from the results of those two races was the question: just how good could Ferny Hollow be? After all, he beat Appreciate It in last year’s Champion Bumper and Bob Olinger when landing the odds on his debut over hurdles earlier in the season. Sadly, Ferny Hollow has been forced to spend the last four months on the sidelines due to injury, but there is no doubt he has the potential to go right to the very top if making a full recovery. His next appearance on a racecourse will hopefully prove well worth waiting for.

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