The Cheltenham Festival, for many the highlight of the National Hunt season, is nearly upon us and this blog takes a look at some of the horses who have won here this season en route to Cheltenham and are entered at the time of writing. We also highlight some of our high-profile winners from previous seasons who are set to run this week.
From our four bonus series qualifiers earlier this season, where the winner of each will receive a £50k bonus should they go on to win any steeplechase at the Festival, two horses will be lining up at Prestbury Park, with both For Pleasure and Elixir De Nutz are declared to run in Wednesday’s Grand Annual. So far Voy Por Ustedes in 2006 is the only horse to land the Bonus Series, so fingers crossed that will change come Wednesday afternoon.
Enjoy the read and we hope you have a very successful Cheltenham!
Ultima Handicap Chase (Tuesday) – Full Back
The Gary Moore-trained Full Back was extremely impressive here in December 2020 when landing a Bonus Series race by 31 lengths. Unfortunately he didn’t make it to Cheltenham last year but goes there this season with a big chance in the Ultima having won a handicap at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Josh Moore takes the ride and Full Back can be supported at 16/1 at the time of writing.
Champion Hurdle (Tuesday) – Glory And Fortune
Glory and Fortune was rated just 130 when he scored a four-length victory in a 2m Handicap Hurdle on our opening meeting of the season in September and he has gone from strength to strength since. Now rated 148 after landing the £150k Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month, Tom Lacey will hope the seven-year-old can do the seemingly impossible and defeat the unbeaten Honeysuckle who for many is the banker of the week.
Grand Annual (Wednesday) – For Pleasure
For Pleasure ran out a convincing winner of a 2m1f Novices’ Chase on December 13th which was our second £50k Bonus Series qualifier of the season. He defeated subsequent winner Nassalam by 37 lengths that day but was well beaten by Edwardstone – now favourite for the Arkle – at Warwick last month. He could be competitive off a mark of 138.
Grand Annual (Wednesday) – Elixir De Nutz
Lining up alongside For Pleasure is fellow Bonus Series qualifier winner Elixir De Nutz, who also defeated Nassalam at Plumpton on January 2nd. He followed that up with a 13-length win at Kempton last month and chases his third successive win in this. Rated 143, Elixir De Nutz appears to like Cheltenham having won twice there previously – including in Grade 2 company as a novice hurdler – and he looks to have a solid chance in the Grand Annual. He is a best-priced 16/1 shot at the time of writing and looks the best chance of this season’s Bonus Series qualifier winners.
Plate Handicap Chase (Thursday) – Pistol Whipped
The Nicky Henderson-trained Pistol Whipped landed the Sussex Champion Chase on Easter Monday last year under Nico de Boinville and is entered into the Plate on Thursday. It is unclear whether he will be declared having only run once this season, where he was pulled up in the Grade 2 Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase at Ascot in November, but hopefully he will line up and boost the form of our Champion Chase!
Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Thursday) – Larry
Those of you with a great memory may recall the Gary Moore-trained Larry bolting up in a Novice Hurdle at Plumpton back in March 2018, defeating subsequent Sussex National winner Seaston Spirit by 20 lengths in the colours of the Galloping On The South Downs Partnership. He unfortunately fell here the following season when going well in a Bonus Series contest and that was the last time he ran at Plumpton, however he has given a good account of himself elsewhere this season and wouldn’t be without a chance if he lines up in the Kim Muir. As it’s an amateur jockeys’ race, his usual rider Jamie Moore won’t be able to ride him at Cheltenham and we will find out his confirmed jockey if he is declared on Tuesday.
We wish all the local trainers, jockeys and owners the very best of luck this week – hopefully we will be discussing a Sussex-based Cheltenham Festival winner at our meeting next Monday!