We’re on the road to the Cheltenham Festival with the leading lights of the National Hunt game coming out to play.
A number of clues for all four championship races – the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle and Gold Cup – are set to be dropped over the coming months.
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The Cheltenham Festival 2023 takes place between Tuesday, March 14 to Friday, March 17 and it’s fair to say we’re pretty excited already.
The latest antepost Cheltenham Festival odds can be found on the Paddy Power website and app, otherwise our summary of the leading contenders for the big races is below.
Constitution Hill heads Paddy Power’s Champion Hurdle antepost betting but Nicky Henderson is being careful with last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner after opting against an engagement in the Ascot Hurdle on account of the drying ground. The market leader is set to run in Saturday’s Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.
Honeysuckle has won the last two renewals of the Champion Hurdle and is set to follow last season’s programme by kicking off her campaign in the Hatton Grade at Fairyhouse on Sunday, December 4.
State Man, the winner of this year’s County Hurdle, landed the Morgiana at Navan and, at this stage, looks like Willie Mullins’ leading hope in the feature race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Stablemate Vauban claimed last season’s Triumph Hurdle but five-year-olds don’t have a great record in the championship race, while two-time Cheltenham Festival winner Sir Gerhard might go novice chasing.
Gordon Elliott’s Pied Piper is two from two over flights this term – including a course-and-distance win at Cheltenham – and is likely to be seen at Christmas after swerving the Fighting Fifth.
Energumene sits atop Paddy Power’s Champion Chase antepost odds ahead of the defence of his crown. Willie Mullins’ leading two-miler scored a dominant victory in last season’s renewal and is likely to start off his campaign in the Hilly Way at Cork on Sunday, December 11.
Shishkin was the favourite for last season’s race after beating Energumene in the Clarence House at Ascot but failed to finish after being pulled up by Nico de Boinville. Trainer Nicky Henderson has indicated the Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday, December 3 is ‘part of the plan’.
Ferny Hollow has looked the real deal whenever he’s appeared on track, but injury problems have plagued the 2020 Champion Bumper winner and last season’s novice chasing campaign was cut short. He was due to return for the first time since last December in the Fortria earlier this month but was withdrawn two hours before the off due to the ground at Navan.
Arkle hero Edwardstone is another contender that has yet to make his seasonal reappearance after being withdrawn from engagements at Cheltenham and Ascot this month due to the ground conditions. The Tingle Creek is a potential option for trainer Alan King.
Greaneteen delivered a stirring display to carry top-weight to victory in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter and the next target for Paul Nicholls’ charge is the defence of his Tingle Creek crown.
Closutton second string Blue Lord got the better of stablemate Tornado Flyer to land the Clonmel Oil and could take in the John Durkan at Punchestown for his next race.
Nube Negra, second in the 2021 Champion Chase, landed the Shloer Chase over course and distance for the second year in a row and is likely to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival.
Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle
Flooring Porter is seeking a third consecutive victory in the feature race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival and, unsurprisingly, heads our Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle antepost betting market. The son of Yeats finished fourth on seasonal reappearance in the Lismullen Hurdle over an inadequate trip and its all systems go for the Christmas Hurdle, named in honour of the late Jack de Bromhead, at Leopardstown.
Blazing Khal missed last season’s major meetings in the spring due to injury and is set to make his return to the track after the festive period.
Klassical Dream could only finish fifth in last season’s renewal and the Hatton’s Grace could be the nine-year-old’s starting point for the campaign.
2021 Cesarewitch and Ascot Hurdle winner Buzz is still recovering from a fractured pelvis and Nicky Henderson has said if ‘there’s 100% chance he’s not going to come to any harm then the plan is to crack on.’
Champ, fourth in last season’s renewal after switching back to flights, is set to make his first appearance of the new campaign in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday.
Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Bob Olinger is a potential wildcard in the pack after trainer Henry De Bromhead opted to revert to hurdling but placing second in the Lismullen has hardly set the antepost betting alight. He holds an entry for the Hatton’s Grace but appears more likely to tackle the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Champion Hurdle third Zanahiyr made no impression in the Lismullen and is another to hold an entry for the Hatton’s Grace.
Maries Rock, the winner of the Mares’ Hurdle and Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in the spring, is set to tackle the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but trainer Henderson is unsure whether ‘she’s ready for three miles at the moment’.
Proschema landed the West Yorkshire Hurdle earlier this month and is a leading fancy for the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Galopin Des Champs heads Paddy Power’s Gold Cup antepost betting and is set to make his seasonal bow in the John Durkan at Punchestown on Sunday, December 11 while he also holds an entry for the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.
A Plus Tard, the winner of last season’s Gold Cup, was pulled up in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and could head to Leopardstown for the Savills Chase over the festive period.
Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase hero L’Homme Presse is on track to make his belated first appearance of the season in the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.
Allaho scored a stinking victory in April’s Punchestown Gold Cup to suggest he could handle the Gold Cup trip but the Ryanair Chase hat-trick attempt remains the number one target. Plans to tackle the King George have been shelved after a training setback.
The Dan Skelton-trained Protektorat scored an impressive victory in the Betfair Chase to kick off his campaign in fine style and is set to go to Lingfield for the Fleur De Lys Chase or Cheltenham for the Cotswold Chase in January for his next assignment.
Bravemansgame kicked off his campaign with victory in the Charlie Hall Chase and the King George is trainer Paul Nicholls’ big target.
Willie Mullins’ Capodanno landed the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in April but has not taken up his entry for the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.
Ahoy Senor was a disappointing fifth in the Charlie Hall Chase on seasonal reappearance and holds an entry for the King George.
National Hunt Chase winner Stattler is three from three over fences and could run for the first time this term in the John Durkan.
Galway Plate scorer Hewick is set to head straight to the Gold Cup after landing the American Grand National at Far Hills in October.
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