Cheltenham Tips: Timeform’s prime picks from the Festival stable tours

They've been in all the big stables in the lead up to the Festival and here's 5 slick picks from their inside line.


*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

The Sporting Life and Timeform reporters have been busy attending stable tours in Britain and Ireland ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. Here they reveal which contender they took away from the trip.


Epatante – Champion Hurdle (Tuesday, 15:30)

Trainer: Nicky Henderson

Nicky Henderson was of course in good spirits regarding the chances of Shishkin, Constitution Hill and Jonbon et al, but one horse he was glowing over was 2020 Champion Hurdle winner Epatante, who he believes is right back to her very best.

The eight-year-old mare reportedly had a back problem ailing her last season, but Henderson has been very pleased with her two runs so far this time round, and couldn’t be happier with her work.

Epatante has since had a racecourse gallop at Kempton, an away day that has treated her well in the past ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, and the feeling from Seven Barrows is that she will outrun her odds, at the very least.

(Andrew Asquith)

Chemical Energy – Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle (Friday, 17:30)

Trainer: Gordon Elliott

Elliott will be well-represented in the race named after his old mentor and picking between them will not be easy.

The vibes around Chemical Energy are very positive and I liked the look of him the last day when winning under Shane Fitzgerald at Fairyhouse.

He comes to Cheltenham fresh and, more importantly, a potentially well-handicapped novice which is the type of horse you really need in this event.

Hopefully Jordan Gainford rides Chemical Energy as he’s still technically a conditional jockey when it comes to the race conditions, despite his relative wealth of experience including a win on The Shunter at last year’s Festival.

(Fran Berry)



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Dinoblue – Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Thursday, 16:50)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

I was really taken with Dinoblue in the flesh at Willie’s yard and, although very lightly-raced, she looks a mare going places.

Her maiden win at Clonmel was impressive and it was encouraging to see the third home Mi Lighthouse come out and win her maiden by 14 lengths at Limerick in early-February.

I get the impression Mullins is hoping for the best with her as he looks to claim a sixth success in the race.

(Fran Berry)

West Cork – County Hurdle (Friday, 14:10)

Trainer: Dan Skelton

Dan Skelton is still awaiting his first Grade One winner at the Cheltenham Festival and is attacking this year’s meeting with precisely that target in mind having lined up super-fresh trio Nube Negra, Shan Blue and Protektorat for the Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup respectively.

However, deep down I think he’d be first to admit that his most likely source of success is the handicaps. He’s won the County Hurdle three times in the past and this year’s number one hope for the two-mile contest, namely West Cork, really stood out from the stable visit.

A tall, angular horse with fences written all over him, Skelton expects him to be plying his trade in Graded company over the larger obstacles next season and made it abundantly clear he thinks his BHA mark of 141 is potentially still quite lenient.

“It’s very hard to win two major handicaps in the one season,” the trainer said with a wry smile.

“But he won the Greatwood on the Old Course and I’d bet my balls to a barn dance he’ll be better suited to the New Course on the Friday of the Festival.”

Need I say more?

(Matt Brocklebank)



Bravemansgame – Brown Advisory Chase (Wednesday, 14:10)

Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls isn’t interested in going to the Cheltenham Festival just to take part, so his small team of runners at this year’s meeting will all be worth a second look.

That comment certainly applies to Bravemansgame, who Nicholls was particularly effusive about when discussing his chance in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. It’s easy to see why. Unbeaten in four starts over fences to date, Bravemansgame ran to a very high level for a novice when giving lumps of weight and a comprehensive beating to some useful rivals at Newbury last time.

Nicholls is already thinking about the King George and the Gold Cup with Bravemansgame next season, so it will be disappointing if he can’t get the job done here, with the pick of the Irish novices seemingly going elsewhere.

(Adam Houghton)

Timeform’s Top Tips:

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change


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