The Key Prep Races for Cheltenham 2021
The Cheltenham Festival is on the horizon, around three months away and talk has certainly started.
However, it is a little early to be talking about what we are backing just yet, so instead, it is a good idea to look at the key prep races for contenders of the main events at the meeting.
This is where you can expect to see the top horses show their form before the festival, and these races often provide key clues for those who take the time to watch and follow the form.
What Have We Seen So Far?
We have already had two months of the new jumps season, so many stars have already been on the track.
Epatante cruised to victory in the Fighting Fifth hurdle at Newcastle to show her Champion Hurdle credentials. She won the race last season and will head to Kempton at Christmas before going onto the festival.
Chacun Pour Soi has shown his ability with a win at Cork, hopefully he can remain healthy and get to the Champion Chase in one piece.
If you didn’t know already, it seems that Envoi Allen is the new superstar on the block, he’s been foot perfect in two races over the bigger obstacles. The Marsh Novice Chase is the likely target for him at Cheltenham, he already has them running scared.
Big Races During the Christmas Period
Christmas is a hugely important time in the world of horse racing and there are many races to keep an eye on.
Altior will head to Kempton in the Desert Orchid Chase on December 27. He was supposed to run at the start of December, but was pulled out on account of the ground.
It will be interesting to see what the further break does for him, remember we haven’t seen him run since February, a far longer break than he normally has.
Epatante will run in the Christmas Hurdle on the same day, so Nicky Henderson has two of his biggest Cheltenham hopes heading to the track on the same day to show their claims.
Another runner from the yard, Champ, will head to either the Savills Chase on December 28 in Ireland or the King George on Boxing Day at Kempton.
The King George should be a cracker, with Clan Des Obeaux, Cyrname, Lostintranslation and more expected to run.
Rounding things off, two-time Gold Cup Winner Al Boum Photo will head to Tramore over Christmas for his only run prior to Cheltenham and the chance to win three Gold Cup’s in a row.
What to Watch in January
At the end of January we have Cheltenham Trials Day to look forward to, and two races in particular will shape the Championship races at the festival.
The Cotswold Chase is the only Cheltenham Gold Cup trial at the course, so always attracts a strong group of runners.
Nicky Henderson has said one of his two Gold Cup hopes will go here, either Santini or Champ and at this stage it is likely to be the former.
Then we have the Cleeve Hurdle to watch, a race over three miles where Stayers Hurdles horses will run.
We saw Paisley Park win the race last year before disappointing at the festival, he is likely to be one of many Stayers Hurdles contenders to run here.
Dublin Racing Festival
The big prep weekend in Ireland is the Dublin Racing Festival, which takes place on February 6 & 7. This is a big meeting regardless of Cheltenham, with eight Grade One races and huge prize money on offer.
However, it is also where we see the big Irish contenders run before they head over to Cheltenham.
We know how successful the Irish runners have been in the past, this meeting is a must watch for those looking to bet at the festival.