Cheltenham Festival Clues: 3 Horses To Watch With The Festival In Mind This Weekend

Paul Nicholls saddles some eye-catching runners at Kempton this weekend.
Paul Nicholls saddles some eye-catching runners at Kempton this weekend.

Steve Chambers picks out three horses that run at Kempton this weekend, who will be aiming to bag a win before heading to the Cheltenham Festival in March...

With March rapidly approaching the countdown to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival has reached boiling point, but a final few horses will be staking their claims for one of the 28 races at the four-day National Hunt extravaganza, and we pick out three horses that catch the eye at Kempton Park on Saturday afternoon. Some quality Graded action will take place this weekend with the likes of Adonis Juvenile Hurdle and the Dovecote Novices' Hurdle likely to throw some notable festival clues, and we point you in the direction of some of the star names running this weekend.

Atholl Street - 15:00 Kempton - Dovecote Novices' Hurdle (Entered for Supreme Novices' Hurdle)

It's been a decade since Paul Nicholls has trained the winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Al Ferof - 2011), but the master of Ditcheat will be hoping that Atholl Street can turn into a potential contender for the festival curtain-raiser on Saturday, and he puts his credentials on the line in the Dovecote Novices' Hurdle at Kempton Park on Saturday afternoon.

A four-length maiden hurdle win at Taunton in mid-November was followed by an authoritative 16-length success at Taunton in December, where he cruised to victory and he will now be upped in class this weekend in the Grade 2 Dovecote. 

Currently trading around a 33/1 chance for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Atholl Street will need to put up an impressive display this weekend if he is to be regarded as a potential threat to red-hot Supreme favourite Appreciate It, but he has shown to possess significant class in his two hurdle starts, and Nicholls is likely to bring him on further on Saturday. Related to former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kicking King, Atholl Street is an exciting young pretender for the Nicholls yard, and he could prove to be one of the emerging starts from the Somerset stable.

Dovecote Novices' Hurdle
Atholl Street silk

Atholl Street

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Tritonic - 14:25 Kempton - Adonis Juvenile Hurdle (Entered for Triumph Hurdle)

Alan King's Tritonic was a really smart performer on the Flat for the Barbury Castle team, with his last outing on the level seeing him finishing fourth in the Old Rowley Cup at Newmarket, but it's over hurdles that could see him sparkle on the big stage. A very taking win at Ascot on his hurdling debut saw him reel in Casa Loupi and that pair meet again in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday.

The last notable trial for the Triumph Hurdle, the Adonis always attracts some smart four-year-olds with Zarkandar (2011) the last horse to win this event before going on to claim Triumph glory, and Tritonic is currently a 12/1 chance for the Triumph, and a win at the weekend would see him cement his place as one of the leading juveniles in training.

He will improve immeasurably for his first experience over timber last time out, and King has been extremely bullish when talking about the son of Sea The Moon. Saturday's Adonis will give him more experience over hurdles before a crack at the Triumph, and he is arguably the most fascinating runner lining up this weekend.

Adonis Juvenile Hurdle
Tritonic silk



Al Dancer - 15:35 Kempton - Close Brothers Handicap Chase (Entered for Ultima, Ryanair, Plate)

We are treated to a fascinating renewal of the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at 15:35 on Saturday afternoon with some top notch handicappers lining up. The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Al Dancer is a prominent figure in the betting and the former Betfair Hurdle winner is still looking to show his best form over fences, but on his day is a class act.

The Naunton inmate has three Cheltenham Festival entries with the Ryanair Chase (50/1) the ultimate goal for connections, but for him to line up in that Grade 1 contest on March 18 then he will need to put up a huge effort on Saturday, and most likely have to win. However, he's also got entries in the Ultima Handicap Chase (20/1) and the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase (25/1), and he will be a notable challenger in either of those contests as he is a classy performer with some smart form in the book, so has to warrant respect.

Third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, Al Dancer then failed to fire in the Caspiar Caviar Gold Cup when finishing ninth, but he has shown to be a better performer in better ground, so Saturday's conditions could suit him well. If he can perform with credit then the Twiston-Davies team would have a decision to make as to which race they tackle, but the Ryanair Chase could be tailor-made for him, and he could be a lively each-way player for that Grade 1, which looks extremely wide open, at the time of writing.

Close Brothers Handicap Chase
Al Dancer silk

Al Dancer

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