Cheltenham Festival Banker: Can anything beat Honeysuckle, Shishkin or Allaho?
Punters across the land will be finalising their Cheltenham Festival bets ahead of all the action between March 15-18, and all of them will be aiming to find a banker that they can rely on during the four days. Well, there are three solid odds-on favourites in the shape of Honeysuckle, Shishkin and Allaho - and we assess their chances and select which is the banker of the meeting...
Honeysuckle - 1/2 for the 2022 Champion Hurdle
Unbeaten throughout her illustrious career, Henry De Bromhead's Honeysuckle has quickly become the Queen of the turf, and she is a red-hot favourite to retain her Champion Hurdle crown on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. As short as 1/2 favourite with the bookmakers, the Irish raider produced a stunning performance to bound to a six-and-a-half length victory in the 2021 Champion Hurdle, and a repeat of that effort on March 15 will surely see her go very close once again.
Wins in the Grade 1 Hatton's Grace Hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle earlier in the season sees her head to Cheltenham in fine fettle, and as she bids for a third win at the festival she looks to be a really rock solid favourite. However, there are some classy perfomers taking her on, and the one fascinating contender that could prove to be a fly in the ointment is the Willie Mullins-trained Appreciate It. Not seen on the track all year, the Closutton inmate, who is 7/2 second favourite for the race, was last seen romping to victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at last year's festival. Now, it's going to be a tough ask for him to down Honeysuckle, but he has shown to be a real smart performer on his day and could ask her a few questions.
Add in the smart of duo of Teahupoo and former winner Epatante, while the progressive Adagio adds more depth to the contest, it could be far from a penalty kick for De Bromhead's starlet, and while she should have enough she's awfully short at the current odds.
Shishkin - 4/6 for 2022 Queen Mother Champion Chase
A narrow winner of the 2020 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Shishkin continued his imperious Cheltenham Festival record with a 12-length romp in the 2021 Arkle Challenge Trophy, and the Nicky Henderson-trained superstar will look to make it a festival hat-trick on day two of the meeting as he lines up in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Faultless throughout his chasing career, Shishkin has amassed seven wins from seven over fences, and having blown the cobwebs away with a 10-length victory over Tingle Creek winner Greaneteen in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park in December, he was then handed his toughest test to date as he locked horns Energumene in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. Facing an unbeaten, speedster in the shape of Energumene, Shishkin - who can hit a flat spot - was sure to have his work cut out - and in the race of the season he was made to fight all the way to the end, where he just reeled in the Willie Mullins-trained raider.
Fans of Shishkin were certainly given their first scare over fences, and Energumene is set for another crack at him at Cheltenham, while his stablemate Chacun Pour Soi will also pose a big threat to the Seven Barrows raider. If Energumene can set a fierce gallop from the outset then he could have Shishkin a bit tapped for toe coming down the hill, and with his jumping sure to be fully tested then could this be his potential blot on his winning copybook?
Allaho - 8/13 for 2022 Ryanair Chase
Willie Mullins has a real embarrassment of riches heading into the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, but arguably his most solid performer could be Allaho, who is currently an 8/13 favourite for the Ryanair Chase, but for all money looks the most solid favourite heading into the meeting.
Like Shishkin, Allaho was also a 12-length winner at the festival last season, as he romped to an emphatic success in the 2021 Ryanair Chase, and it will be no shock to see him emulate that sort of display here. He kicked off this season with a fine victory in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown, while he followed up with a 12-length obliteration of Fakir D'Oudairies in a Grade 2 at Thurles, and with that raider going on to win the Grade 1 Ascot Chase then the form is top notch.
Looking at the current ante-post market, the three next in the betting (A Plus Tard, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi) are all set to line up elsewhere, so his main dangers will come in the shape of Irish Gold Cup hero Conflated and Dan Skelton's Shan Blue. Both of those stars appear to be three milers, who may not see out the Cheltenham Gold Cup trip, so have to take in the 2m 5f of the Ryanair, while the other notable rivals are the likes of Saint Calvados and Eldorado Allen, who Allaho should comfortably brush aside.
With around 3/1 the treble for the aforementioned triumvirate to win their respective races, then it's pretty likely that all three prevail, but Allaho appears to have the easiest task of the three on his hands in the Ryanair Chase, Proven over course and distance, and lining up in tremendous form against inferior rivals, the Willie Mullins-trained star can prove to be the banker of the festival for those wishing to back an odds-on jolly.