The 2021 Cheltenham Festival (16th – 19th March) is fast approaching. It is, of course, one of the busiest times of the year for bookmakers and punters; even if the lack of fans in attendance this year means that all the betting will be done away from the course. Tens of millions will be placed on the 28 races, with the bookies hoping, as ever, for some big upsets similar to Annie Power falling in 2015, Mares’ Hurdle or Douvan disappointing in the 2017 Champion Chase.
The big stories, going into the festival include Al Boum-Photo’s shot at a third successive Gold Cup, and the intriguing two-way tussle for the Champion Hurdle between Honeysuckle and Epatante. These are tough races to call, despite what the tipsters might tell you. When it comes to the horses that look like they are nailed-on for a victory, we think there are three that stand out: Chacun Pour Soi, Envoi Allen and Concertista.
Chacun Pour Soi can land Mullins’ first Champion Chase
Running in the Champion Chase on Ladies’ Day, Chacun Pour Soi has been one of the hot tips for the Cheltenham Day 2 races for a few months now. The problem for punters is, that his price has shortened with every excellent performance from Willie Mullins’ 9-year-old. Chacun Pour Soi looked imperious when winning the Grade 1 Dublin Chase last month, and you can see why bookmakers have gone as short at 4/6 on him to deliver a first-ever Champion Chase to the Mullins’ yard. Romantics might believe that Altior (7/1) can bounce back in a similar manner to Sprinter Sacre in 2016, but it’s difficult to envisage.
As for Envoi Allen, the unbeaten star of Gordon Elliott’s stable is also odds-on for his race, the Grade 1 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. While nobody doubts Envoi Allen’s quality, the horse is the beneficiary of his own reputation. You get the sense that others are being placed elsewhere at the festival because nobody wants to face Envoi Allen. Odds of 4/5 seem about right for the 7-year-old, although we feel some punters might have a look at Shan Blue at a 10/1 with each-way claims.
Finally, Concertista; another name to add to Willie Mullins’ long list of brilliant mares. The winner of the 2020 Mares’ Novices Hurdle will take centre stage in the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle in 2021. Again, Concertista has got peice bit of luck, with Honeysuckle seemingly heading for the Champion Hurdle . That has opened the way for Concertista to be considered the strong favourite, with most bookies pricing her at just a shade above evens. Harry Fry’s Roksana looks to be the biggest danger, particularly if she shows the form that won this race in 2019.