It’s January, which means just one thing; the Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner. Whilst it’s not yet clear how many spectators will be allowed to attend the historic meeting, there is hope that there will be at least some sort of Cheltenham roar, even if the horses and jockeys won’t be cheered by a 70,000+ crowd.
The four days are littered with Grade 1 races, 15 in fact, and whilst the Gold Cup is often the main one in the Cheltenham betting, we’re sure punters will be scanning the racecards every day, evaluating the form and watching for movement in the odds.
Day One’s featured race is the Champion Hurdle. So, let’s take a look at the possible entries leading the way in the early betting market.
Epatante – 6/4
Nicky Henderson-trained Epatante first featured at Cheltenham in 2019, heading into the National Hunt Breeders Novices’ Hurdle as the 15/8 favourite. However, it was a disappointing run from the then four-year-old, as she finished ninth, almost 10 lengths behind shock 50/1 winner Eglantine Du Seuil. Nonetheless, Epatante gained some more experience throughout the course of 2019 and returned to Cheltenham last year, this time entering the Champion Hurdle as the 2/1 favourite, and she lived up to her market leader status, beating 16/1 shot Sharjah by three lengths. However, with regular jockey Barry Geraghty now retired, it’s not yet clear who will be in the saddle this year.
Saint Roi – 8/1
Five-year-old Saint Roi is also no stranger to winning at Cheltenham, in fact winning has been part and parcel for the Willie Mullins-trained gelding since he joined the Irish trainer’s stables in November 2019, winning three of his five outings. Saint Roi headed into the Cheltenham Festival last year on the back of an emphatic nine-length victory at Tramore, and it was another comfortable victory at the meeting, as he won the Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle by four and a half lengths.
Abacadabras – 9/1
This will be Abacadbras’ third outing at the Cheltenham Festival, and the Gordon Elliott-trained horse is still seeking her first victory at the meeting. The six-year-old first featured at Cheltenham in the Champion Bumper, where she secured an impressive fourth place finish as a 14/1 outside, whilst last year, Abacadabras was beaten by the head of Shishkin in the Grade 1 Supreme Novice’s Hurdle, so this year she’ll be hoping to go one better and land her first victory at the course in the Champion Hurdle, and she got one over on Saint Roi at Punchestown in November, beating him to the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle by a neck.
Honeysuckle – 16/1
The unbeaten Honeysuckle could be a good outside bet for this year’s Champion Hurdle. Currently priced at 16/1, the Henry De Bromhead-trained mare has won all 10 of her races, including a victory in the Grade 1 David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, where she beat heavy favourite Benie Des Dieux by half a length.