The Cheltenham Festival is upon us and our resident horse racing expert Jack Nunn has put together this list of five to follow at Cheltenham 2020.
Arkle – Al Dancer
After the Supreme gets Cheltenham 2020 underway, attention will turn to the Arkle Novice’s Chase which normally proves to be a strong race, with Altior and Sprinter Sacre among the notable recent winners. This year’s race looks strong with the Irish trio of Notebook, Fakir D’oudairies and cash back heading the betting.
However, a forgotten horse at a bigger price is Al Dancer. He went off joint favourite for the Supreme last year and was running well until fading on the very testing opening day ground. Since then he has switched to novice chasing in which he opened his account in good style over course and distance.
Al Dancer then put in two slightly below par runs on testing conditions in small fields, before a good run behind Mister Fisher, at Doncaster latest. He travelled very well, made a slight mistake at the last and then ran on again, eventually beaten by a length at the line. The fast pace they will go should suit this strong travelling horse, something he hasn’t had this season, and as long as the ground isn’t too testing I feel he will run a big race at a big price.
Ultima Handicap Chase – Vinndication
The Ultima kicks off the Handicap’s for Cheltenham 2020 and is always very competitive. However, unlike most Cheltenham handicaps, there could be a genuine Grade 1 horse who lines up in the form of Vinndication.
No form in the race can match his 3 ¼ length third to Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation in last year’s Grade 1 Scilly Isles chase. That was over a trip which proved too short after a respectable fifth in the JLT Novices Chase at the festival last year.
He then won a grade 3 handicap chase at Ascot in very impressive style over 3 miles. The ultima is just 1 furlong further and he looks the type of horse to go right to the top of the staying chase division. A mark of 159 might not be enough to stop this lightly raced, improving 7-year-old. It would be no surprise if he took this in his stride and lined up as a leading Gold Cup contender next year.
March Novices’ Chase – Itchy Feet
Formerly known as the JLT Novices Chase, the Cheltenham 2020 renewal is as strong as ever.
If Faugheen is in the same form as he has been all season then the public’s favourite looks sure to run another big race. However, there is suspicion whether he will be quick enough to win a race of this level at 12 years old, and the tough race he had in Ireland only a month ago may find him out.
There is also the argument of how good the Irish novice form is in the 2 and half mile division, bearing in mind the top current novice is Faugheen. Allaho is the current favourite, but he has only won a weak begginers chase at Fairyhouse and could be vulnerable.
This gives rise to look at the British Novices and Itchy Feet was very impressive when taking the Grade 1 Scilly Isles at Sandown last time. He travelled and jumped brilliantly and won with a lot up his sleeve. He handles soft ground and ran well when third in the supreme last year. He is lightly raced over fences and could prove too quick for a lot of these in the race.
Pertempts Network Final Handicap – The Storyteller
A grade 1 winner over Fences, The Storyteller has clearly been aimed at this race all season. The last race he ran in was a qualifier for this in which the top 6 gain a place in this final.
He was ridden very quietly and stayed on to finish an eye catching 6th, and has not run since, in order to protect his mark of 149. He won a Cheltenham handicap chase off just 2 pound lower 2 years ago in soft conditions so is proven over the course.
Gordon Elliot won this race last year and is a genius in plotting a horse in any race, especially the Pertmepts. A classy horse often wins with Delta Work and Presenting Percy winning in recent years, and the Storyteller has the right profile to win this year.
Triumph Hurdle- Solo
My banker of Cheltenham 2020 is the ultra impressive Kempton winner, Solo. An unknown quantity 2 weeks ago, he couldn’t have been more impressive when taking a Grade 2 Hurdle by 13 lengths, from a very useful horse in second, Fujimoto Flyer.
That earned him a rating of 157, only 2lb lower than Champion Hurdle Favourite Epatante, and 9 higher than the next highest rated horse in the Triumph, Allmankind. The main dangers in the race are Goshen and Allmankind, who have both been very impressive when taking lesser races throughout the season.
There are question marks however about how freely Allmankind runs and how Goshen jumps. It is likely they will both be very prominent and go a fast pace, setting it up for the impressive jumper that is Solo. Whereas Goshen, and Allmankind look like speedier, more temperamental flat horses, Solo looks like a solid jumps horse who should relish the challenge that Cheltenham brings.
If you enjoyed Jack’s tips, make sure you use them in our Cheltenham 2020 pools. Click here to find our racing pools.