Cheltenham Festival Tips: My Banker, Lay and Big-Priced Selection

Cheltenham Festival Tips: Monkfish is a red-hot favourite for the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase
Cheltenham Festival Tips: Monkfish is a red-hot favourite for the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase

Steve Chambers picks out his banker, lay and big-priced selection for the Cheltenham Festival, as he picks out some notable tips for the four-day Jumps meeting...

With less than three weeks to go until the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, we kick off a new series of articles which sees the Horseracing.net writers pick out their banker and lay of the meeting, while they put up some big-priced selections that are worth following during the National Hunt extravaganza.

Banker

Some top class novice chasers will strut their stuff at this year's festival with all three premier Grade 1 novice chases being dominated by one horse in particular. Nicky Henderson's Shishkin is an odds-on favourite for the Arkle Challenge Trophy, while the Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish is a red-hot jolly for the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase, with dual Cheltenham Festival winner Envoi Allen fiercely fancied to dominate the Marsh Novices' Chase.

Well, of that classy triumvirate, it's last year's Albert Bartlett winner MONKFISH that makes the most appeal, and he is my banker of the meeting. An impressive chasing debut at Fairyhouse in November saw him kick off his chasing career on a winning note, while he built on that success next time out when outclassing Latest Exhibition in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown in late December. But, it was his dominant 11-length annihilation of usual foe Latest Exhibition on his final start that showed him in his best light, as he cruised to an authoritative victory in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.

Making all in a race that also saw the classy pair of Asterion Forlonge and Andy Dufresne line up, Monkfish dominated from the flag fall and duly pulled away in the closing stages to cement his place at the top of the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase betting. With proven stamina over three miles at Cheltenham, Monkfish could well scare a host of his rivals off with some likely to veer away from the Closutton monster and head to the National Hunt Chase, so he could go off at prohibitive odds come March 17.

Emphatic Peter Marsh winner Royale Pagaille could be a notable rival, but he could be Cheltenham Gold Cup bound, while he has already shown to have too much quality for Latest Exhibition on several occasions this season. Colin Tizzard's The Big Breakaway is a class act on his day, but he lacks the turn of pace Monkfish possesses, while Eklat De Rire and Sporting John could be another brace of adversaries, but both will struggle to deal with the quality of the Irish hotpot.

Brown Advisory Novices' Chase
Monkfish silk

Monkfish

won

Lay

Punters will be eager to kick off the Cheltenham Festival on a winning note and the traditional curtain-raiser, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle will kick off proceedings at 13:20 on March 16. The Willie Mullins-trained APPRECIATE IT will be a hot favourite for the 2m 87y Grade 1, but could the Irish raider follow in the hoofprints of the likes of Dunguib (2010), Cue Card (2011) and Getabird (2018), who have all failed to grab Supreme glory when well-fancied for the contest in the months leading up to the festival.

Runner-up to Ferny Hollow in last season's Champion Bumper at the festival, Appreciate It has blossomed since switching to the hurdling sphere and kicked off his season with an assertive win at Cork in November. Sent into Grade 1 company next time out,  the son of Jeremy was a hugely impressive nine-length winner of the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in December. Strongly pulling clear of Irascible that day, Appreciate It launched to a clear favourite for the Supreme after claiming a win in a race won by the likes of Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Sizing John.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

While he was an impressive winner on his last start beating the classy Ballyadam in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in February, he was given somewhat of an easy time out in front, and while you couldn't help but be impressed with his display, it's not going to be as straightforward in the Supreme.

A race run at a fierce gallop from the outset, Appreciate It won't be able to dominate like he did last time out, and it's questionable whether he possesses that raw speed needed to win a Supreme. Trends followers will be quick to point out as well that seven-year-olds have a fairly mediocre record in the Supreme, with the last winner coming back in 2008 when Captain Cee Bee was victorious. Prior to that, the Mullins team saddled Tourist Attraction to victory in the 1995 Supreme, but the race has been dominated by five and six-year-olds in recent times and the likes of Metier, Soaring Glory and Ballyadam all fall into that age bracket.

There's no doubting Appreciate It is and will be a top class performer, but the hustle and bustle of a Supreme could see him tested to the limits, and with a best-priced 7/4 around, at the time of writing, he is worth laying, as the bookies can get off to an ideal start.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Appreciate It silk

Appreciate It

won

Big-Priced Selection

We shall be treated to a whole host of competitive handicaps over the four days, but my personal favourite is the Grand Annual, which has been switched to Wednesday's card, but shall serve up its usual thrills and spills. Watching two-mile chasers tearing around the undulations of Prestbury Park is a real joy, and while those lining up in the Grand Annual fall below top class and have avoided the Queen Mother Champion Chase or Arkle Challenge Trophy, the Grand Annual is set to be another fiercely contested renewal on March 17.

Jonjo O'Neill's Sky Pirate is currently clear favourite for the race, but will connections be tempted by the Arkle, however, even if he does line up he's not my idea of the winner. The one horse that jumps out at me is the Colin Tizzard-trained ELDORADO ALLEN, who was last seen being put in his place by Arkle hotpot Shishkin at Doncaster, but has shown he can perform to a very high level over fences. 

Cheltenham Festival Races

Rated 149, Eldorado Allen will comfortably make it into the line-up and having been given a beating by Shishkin last time out then it's hard to see him venture down the Arkle route. So, what about his Grand Annual chances? Well, he has winning form around Cheltenham having won a Grade 2 event there earlier in the season (benefited from a late fall from Gumball, but he may have got the upper hand late on). The pair were well clear that day and a return to GL50 should see him sparkle once again.

He lacked the pace to keep up with Shishkin in the closing stages of that Doncaster race, while he was no match for Allmankind in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown, but the Grand Annual will offer a different proposition. His win at Cheltenham earlier in the season came on the old course, and with the Grand Annual switched to Wednesday then that too will take place on the old course, so the two fences in the closing stages should play to his strengths, as his jumping has been relatively sound during his career. A disappointment in the Coral Cup last season (22nd), Eldorado Allen will need to show he can produce the goods in a bumper field, but if he can get into a decent rhythm over his fences then he has to be regarded a huge contender, and the 25/1 on offer looks a cracking bet.

Grand Annual
Eldorado Allen silk

Eldorado Allen

Cheltenham Festival
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