Cheltenham Festival 2021: Our ante-post Lucky 15

Goshen dramatically unseated at the final flight in the Triumph Hurdle, with the race at his mercy.
Goshen dramatically unseated at the final flight in the Triumph Hurdle, with the race at his mercy.

With the current National Hunt season now seemingly over, Anthony Eadson has taken a long range look at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, and recommended an ante-post Lucky 15 bet at huge odds…

Arkle Trophy - 5/1 Shishkin

This year’s Festival was kicked off with Nicky Henderson winning his fourth Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Shishkin, and he did so in taking style. Overnight rain had meant that the ground was much more testing than Shishkin prefers, and after clattering the third hurdle, he lost his place at the head of the field. It seemed as though things were not to be when he hit 99/1 in-running on the betting exchanges, nearly being brought down two from home, but Nico de Boinville galvanised the young horse and found a quite remarkable turn of foot to bring Shishkin alongside Abacadabras, who had travelled like a dream throughout. The two pulled clear of the rest, and de Boinville fended off the challenge in a sensational start to the Festival for his handler.

With all this in mind, it’s clear that with that Shishkin is some horse, with some even going as far as drawing comparisons to stablemate Altior, however, I would not be getting that carried away just yet. There’s no way we can be sure that he will even go for the Arkle at this stage, and he may even be kept over hurdles next term, with a potential tilt at the Champion Hurdle in the equation. However, the Arkle does look the logical route to take here, and should be at the top of his agenda. At 5/1 it’s not a price that screams out as offer much ante-post value, but bearing in mind that Nicky Henderson has won more renewals of the Arkle than any other trainer (with six wins), I’d be happy to have him in my  multis for 2021.

Arkle Trophy
Shishkin silk

Shishkin

Champion Hurdle - 6/1 Goshen

If there’s one thing I took away from attending numerous preview evenings prior to this year’s Cheltenham Festival, is that the hype around Goshen is real - he is an absolute monster. The way he loomed up on Allmankind in the Triumph Hurdle before accelerating out of the final bend at Prestbury Park was a sight to behold. There’s no doubt that if the freak incident at the final flight had not occurred - where his hind got stuck between his near fore and pasture upon landing at the final hurdle - he would have been one of the finest winners of the week. 

One can only imagine how Jamie Moore felt after the incident at the last, and it was lovely to see him consoled by A.P. McCoy as the racing world recovered from that breathtaking opener on Friday. It’s clear that Goshen has a serious engine on him and that he should be kept over hurdles for next season. Before his Cheltenham run, Gary Moore’s four-year-old was around 10/1 to win the 2021 Champion Hurdle, but with the Triumph run in mind and some support from punters, Goshen has now been cut to as short as 5/1 in places, though 6/1 is still readily available. It may not be the most glamorous of prices, but when I look at Goshen he looks a Champion Hurdler in the making, almost Faugheen-esque at times, and I want him on board for next season!

Champion Hurdle
Goshen silk

Goshen

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle - 16/1 Ferny Hollow

Last year’s renewal of the Champion Bumper proved to be exceptionally strong form, with each of Envoi Allen, Abacadabras and Thyme Hill in the first four, and the first-named going on to win the Ballymore this season. The Bumper has a tendency to be rather hit and miss in terms of its winners, but in Ferny Hollow we could have another horse to follow. 

He impressed with the way he was able to come from right at the back of the field to secure victory, landing his trainer an incredible 10th win in the race in the process, and with that in mind we’ll likely see him over further than two miles next season.

The form of that race looks strong, and bearing in mind that Envoi Allen went on to win the following year’s Ballymore, the 16/1 on offer for Ferny Hollow to follow the same path looks very inviting. He showed plenty of stamina when winning the Bumper - hitting a high of 149/1 on the exchanges, and for me the Ballymore should be the preferred route here, rather than the Supreme.

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Ferny Hollow silk

Ferny Hollow

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Gold Cup - 20/1 Topofthegame

It’s not since Best Mate back in 2002/03 that we have had a back-to-back winner of the Gold Cup, but in a tight finish with Santini, Al Boum Photo prevailed, and joined a rather exclusive club in the process. Sent off as the 100/30 favourite, the defending champion kept his nose clean in mid-division for the majority of the race, and despite hitting the 13th fence, he stayed on beautifully under a good ride from Paul Townend. However, it wasn’t a clear-cut success, and there were just over seven lengths that separated the first six home in the race, with Santini and Losintranslation in second and third, respectively. 

This immediately marks out 2019’s RSA Chase as an intriguing bit of form, as the Paul Nicholls-trained Topofthegame defeated both Santini and Delta Work in one of the races of the Festival that year, with the latter also subsequently franking the form - winning twice at Grade 1 level over in Ireland and finishing fifth in this year's Gold Cup. 

Topofthegame was forced to miss this season due to injury, but is expected to be back in the autumn, and Paul Nicholls has already stated that the Gold Cup is his main target. If Nicholls’ eight-year-old can return to full fitness and come back to show some of that stunning form from 2019, I’ve no doubt that he is the value bet at around 20/1 for next season's big race! 

Cheltenham Gold Cup
Topofthegame silk

Topofthegame

2021 Cheltenham Festival - Ante-Post Lucky 15

Arkle Chase, Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday 16th March 2021 - back Shishkin at 5/1

Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday 16th March 2021 - back Goshen at 6/1

Ballymore Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Wednesday 17th March 2021 - back Ferny Hollow at 16/1

Gold Cup, Cheltenham Festival, Friday 19th March 2021 - back Topofthegame at 20/1 

The straight accumulator pays 14,993/1 

The Cheltenham Festival
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