Five favourites that could be beaten at Cheltenham 2020
Every year at the Cheltenham festival, there are plenty of leading fancies that will be viewed as bankers yet fail to live up to expectations. This year will be no different, so here are my five favourites that could be beaten at Cheltenham 2020.
Shishkin (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)
When looking for favourites that could be beaten, where better to start than the opening race of the Cheltenham 2020, the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Heading the market this year is the Nicky Henderson trained SHISHKIN, who has been very impressive on his last two runs, showing a good turn of foot to power away from his rivals. Although clearly a very good horse, there does appear to be a chance that he is too highly rated in the betting based on what he has actually achieved. Particularly as the form of both victories hasn’t really worked out.
A few of his closest market rivals include Irish raiders ABACADABRAS, ASTERION FORELONGE and British leading contender FIDDLERONTHEROOF. Each have already achieved grade one victories and hold stronger form. It is also worth noting that favourites do not have a good record in this race which makes SHISHKIN’S task even more difficult. Therefore, in the win pools I will likely side with an alternative in who has superior form on their CV.
Notebook (Arkle Novices’ Chase)
The first of the grade one chase events of the Cheltenham Festival is the Arkle, which also falls on the opening day. This race never fails to disappoint and is usually run at a furious pace from the word go. Heading the market this year is NOTEBOOK, who is 4-4 over fences, having bagged a couple of top level victories, and will deservedly go off as favourite. However, although clearly the one to beat, he makes our list of favourites that could get beaten due to how disappointing he was at this meeting last year over hurdles when well beaten.
NOTEBOOK is now a 158 rated chaser, much better than he was over hurdles and he has done nothing wrong over fences. However, he was only a 130 rated horse over hurdles. Other than one former winner of the race, Western Warhorse, being similarly rated, horses off that sort of mark genuinely dont win the race.
Most winners of the Arkle were near top rated over hurdles which puts Notebook well down that pecking order. I would not put anyone completely off backing him to win the race and break a few trends but, for me, there is better value elsewhere. Other options fit the nicely as well and, therefore, I think Notebook could become a beaten favourite at the Cheltenham Festival 2020.
Epatante (Champion Hurdle)
It is such a shame we won’t get to witness last years impressive winner Espoir D’Allen, who sadly lost his life not long after winning this race. We also won’t see former two-time champion Buveur D’Air, who is on the sidelines, leaving this renewal a pretty weak one. Nicky Henderson has a handful of runners in this year’s event and his mare EPATANTE heads the market on the back of an easy success in the Christmas hurdle.
EPATANTE does have a leading chance of collecting this prize but I am against her. Her only defeat so far was at this meeting last year and she was never involved in a weak mares event. Although she hasn’t been defeated since, those who do win the Christmas Hurdle tend to have a poor record in the Champion Hurdle, with the exception of a few.
This will comfortably be EPATANTE’s stiffest competition to date and I don’t believe represents a value pick in the pools. Add in her heavy defeat here last year, which makes her vulnerable, and she could be one of the favourites that could be beaten at Cheltenham 2020.
Tiger Roll (Cross Country Chase)
The first question that most will ask is “How can the legend Tiger Roll get beaten at Cheltenham 2020 in the Cross Country Chase?”
Well, it won’t be an easy task as TIGER ROLL displayed one of the performances of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, winning with his head in his chest by 22 lengths to win the race for the second consecutive year before claiming the Grand National once again in breathtaking style. He has looked unbeatable in the race in the last two years and will try to claim this again before aiming for a third Grand National, for which the whole nation will be cheering on the Aintree legend, including myself.
However, despite TIGER ROLL being a four-time Cheltenham festival winner and having a great chance of claiming a fifth win at the “Olympics of horse racing” a small concern remains that he could only manage fifth on his return. Despite travelling strongly, he didn’t run as well as I would have expected.
It remains to be seen whether he can take a huge step forward on that run next time out at Cheltenham where he will face stiff competition such as former multiple grade one winner YANWORTH, who remains unexposed in this sphere, as well as French cross country specialist EASYSLAND, who was very impressive on his UK debut here back in November.
Taking all this into consideration, TIGER ROLL could prove vulnerable at Cheltenham this time. However, if he does turn up in the same form as previous years then he could make a mockery of his inclusion on this list of favourites that could be beaten.
Al Boum Photo (Cheltenham Gold Cup)
Last but not least, AL BOUM PHOTO (9-2) heads the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup market as he bids to become the first back-to-back winner of the blue-riband event since three-time hero Best Mate.
It is hard to knock this horse, who has developed into the near full package. He has never been out of the top-two when competing over fences and gained his second grade one success when beating a quality field in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup after a lovely ride from Paul Townend.
Sent off at 12/1, he quickened away from the field smartly despite not jumping all that well throughout, clearly indicating he could improve this term. AL BOUM PHOTO then won the Savills Chase for the second consecutive year impressively and heads back to Cheltenham with a good chance of repeating his heroics from twelve months ago.
However, as much as I like AL BOUM PHOTO, the stats are against him winning it for second consecutive year. Names such as Denman, Kauto Star, Imperial Commander and Native River have failed to achieve that rare feat over the years. I think that Al Boum Photo could follow suit and thus is one of our favourites that could be beaten.
It is obvious to see that the defending champion goes there with a big chance of breaking that long trend which has stopped so many from winning the race in consecutive years. However, he is still vulnerable to potential improvers such as LOSTINTRANSLATION, SANTINI, DELTA WORK and MONALEE at a fair price so it is more than likely he will get beaten than not.
Do you agree with our list of favourites that could be beaten at Cheltenham 2020? Then make sure you consider that in our Cheltenham pools which will be appearing on our racing pools page.