Cheltenham Festival is fast-approaching and with that, the ante-post betting has become a very busy market; many of the ante-post favourites are horses that have impressed already this season including at the Cheltenham Trials in January as well as the Dublin Racing Festival in February. However, there are a few outsiders that have snuck in, including Willie Mullins Appreciate It, who’s yet to race this season. Despite the decision not to race him before Cheltenham, he’s second in the betting just behind Honeysuckle at 7/2.
Last week saw Sir Gerhard topping the ante-post racing bets as he took a total of 16.8% of all bets in the Supreme (5/2) and in the Ballymore (11/8). However, in the last couple of days, as the ante-post betting is becoming busier, Sir Gerhard has dropped off and instead, it’s Constitutional Hill who’s come to dominate the betting; he’s currently 9/4 in the Supreme and 5/2 in the Ballymore and has, in the last 24 hours, attracted an impressive 19.7% of all bets in the market.
The most backed horse for a single race is Shishkin (4/6), who’s set for an epic rematch with Energumene in the Champion Chase on Wednesday, followed by Allaho (4/6) for Thursday’s Ryanair Chase.
Third on the list is Honeysuckle, who’s dropped a couple places, as she was the most backed ante-post horse for any individual race at Cheltenham at the beginning of the year. And the pressure is on as the eight-year-old has a perfect 14 from 14 record heading into the defence of her Champion Hurdle, in what could be argued, a tougher race than last year.
Meanwhile, Gaelic Warrior, who’s never raced for Mullins before, finds himself in fourth place of the most backed horses ahead of next week’s racing, and he’s also at the very top of the market in the first day Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (5/2).
The feature race for the finale of the festival never disappoints. Minella Indo rode to victory in 2021, but he hasn’t been as prominent in the races as expected since then.
Minella Indo was pulled-up at the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day after another loss to Frodon and Galvin at the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal in October.
On that evidence, it may be a fight between Galvin and A Plus Tard who both have shown real strength this season and are currently priced at 7/2.
However, whilst the big money pile in for these favourites, Cheltenham has been as big a hit on the tote for the outsiders as it has been for the more favoured rides in recent years.
So, who should we be taking a look at as potential names to make an impact in the Cotswolds and at a decent whack, either as winners or each-way flutters?
A stonking 29-length winner on his hurdling debut, Mighty Potter will arrive at Cheltenham fresh having not raced for a full month after electing to sidestep the Dublin Festival. Despite having finished third at Fairyhouse, Gordon Elliott’s mount soared back to a Grade One victory at Leopardstown in December and is quietly building momentum in the betting circles.
Five-years-old and ready to make an impact, Mighty Potter could be the big horse for the big occasion and very much live up to his name.
Unexpected Party is another contender who is quietly coming up on the rails for Cheltenham 2022. A favourite of jockey Harry Skelton, this particular French fancy is now joint-second favourite in the betting currently, though the horses’ price remains attractive having shortened to from 11s.
A 4 ½ length winner at Ascot in January, this one could deliver.
Paisley Park – Stayers Hurdle 6/1
If a rapidly-shortening Tiger Roll will be one of the more romantic dalliances in the paddock this year, Paisley Park will similarly, be one to keep a very close eye on.
For anyone who witnessed the most remarkable race comeback – perhaps in history – during late January, Paisley’s credentials are still very favourable after stunning the field – and Ruby Walsh – despite being left by a full 15 lengths to storm through the field and take the 5/1 win over 3 miles. As the race suggests, this will again be a test of endurance, but Paisley Park already had that in droves even before his last and most momentous trip to Cheltenham only a few short weeks ago.
Coming home only third as the 9/4 favourite last year, will trainer Emma Lavelle be celebrating this time around and at a better but shortening price?
Perhaps one of the most in-form rides around, Knight Salute has won the last five races – most impressively at 18/1 at Sedgefield back in September – the Four Candles partnership will face a significantly sterner test in the Triumph Hurdle but can make an impact against Vauban and Pied Piper over the final fences. Backing an e/w result could bring rewards.
Chantry House – Gold Cup 16/1
Realistically, the winner of this year’s Gold Cup is likely to come from one of A Plus Tard, Minella Indo or Galvin, but Chantry House might just be one to back for a good finish. In his third trip to the Festival, Nicky Henderson’s now eight-year-old took the Novices’ Chase crown last year by three lengths at a well backed 9/1. The field is stacked here of course, but owner JP McManus’ horse has been a real contender in the bigger races on the calendar. If a slight lack of stamina could hinder over the final furlongs, Chantry House is a renowned strong finisher and could easily be placed if nothing else.
Put The Kettle On – Mares’ Chase 10/1
If a winner in the big one has eluded you, one of the final three races of the Festival could yet bring home the spoils and Put The Kettle On in the penultimate race of the meet looks good value. Henry De Bromhead will be looking to pull back bragging rights over Willie Mullins this year, and this one could be real outsider. A horse who loves Cheltenham, PTKO has won around Gloucestershire on four of the last five occasions and won the Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase in 2021. Though without a win since Cheltenham last year, this eight-year-old can yet rise to the top.
*all prices subject to change and available with most bookies