There won’t even be a roar at 1.31 this Cheltenham Tuesday. Christ on a bike.
For the first time in the festival’s existence, the races will run off in front of deserted stands and without the customary fanfare. Perennial pilgrims are feeling a little empty this time around as that famous week in March nears but the gladrags are folded up and idle, staying on their hangers.
It’s a sad state of affairs but these are the times we’re living in and by this stage, we’ve all come to accept it that a festival without crowds is better than no festival at all.
As the drop of the flag gets closer, doubles, trebles and accumulators are the talk of the town with punters looking to make hay while the sun shines. It’s true that Cheltenham is as good as place as any to make a combination pay because the best horses are peaking and the best horses, well, the best horses usually win at Cheltenham.
Usually is a big word in horse-racing though because saying all that, this sure thing of a five-fold probably hasn’t a prayer.
Willie Mullins is normally reserved, laid back and reluctant to go overboard when talking about his horses. When it comes to the ever-improving Monkfish, the Closutton maestro is unable to keep it low key though, bowled over by the seven-year-old’s class and beauty.
“What can you say after a performance like that?” Mullins said after his latest victory over Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition.
“I was more impressed with him today than any other day. It looks as though he might be getting better with each run.”
Monkfish – stunning athlete! ?
A Festival banker for many, and one of Willie Mullins’ many stars heading to Cheltenham – look out for the feature with the Master of Closutton soon on Sky Sports Racing and our YouTube page pic.twitter.com/d8NpMywY7e
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) March 1, 2021
We’ll get to see him in the Brown’s Advisory Novice’s chase on Wednesday, where a second festival win is surely on the way for this strapping sort.
Chacun Pour Soi 10/11
Wednesday could just be a red-letter-day for the Willie Mullins-Rich Ricci-Paul Townend triple threat with the undoubtedly talented and in-form Chacun Pour Soi odds on to give the Champion trainer his first ever win in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It’s hard to believe that Mullins has never taken the two miler, but it will be harder to believe if Chacun Pour Soi is beaten this time around.
Altior is the one to fear, but surely Nicky Henderson’s icon is over the hill by now.
French based jockey Felix De Giles is in the middle of a ten-day quarantine that will allow him to ride the seven-year-old who’s in hot pursuit of a second cross country chase in a row. Tiger Roll is obviously a force to be reckoned with here but David Cottin’s French star was so flawless this time last year that it’s hard to see an out of form Tiger turning the tables on Wednesday.
Easysland too, disappointed in his seasonal re-appearance behind Kingsland Theatre but is expected to bounce back on the big day.
? Tiger Roll
? Potters Corner
The top trio have all been declared for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at @CheltenhamRaces on Friday.
Watch what happens live on Racing TV. pic.twitter.com/xsKkt0nqCV
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 11, 2020
At this stage, we should know a lot better than to be dubbing a Champion Bumper favourite as a dead cert – the race has turned out to be more of a punter’s graveyard in recent times – but the Mullins bred star was just so irresistible at the Dublin Racing Festival that it’s hard to leave him out.
Bumper specialist Paddy Mullins’ absence is a concern but Paul Townend is an able deputy.
Envoi Allen 8/11
Gordon Elliott will be shutting his eyes. Envoi Allen is one of, if not the most talented horse in training, unbeaten and rarely challenged in his 12 starts to date. A change in surroundings is hardly ideal so close to the festival but Henry De Bromhead rarely gets it wrong and it would take a brave punter to bet against Envoi Allen making it three Cheltenham festival triumphs in a row, when he runs in the Marsh Novice’s Chase on Thursday.
So there you have it, the first 46/1 certainty known to man. As you know well, the only certainty here is that one, two or maybe even five of the above horses will let us down. But sure it’s probably worth a fiver anyway.
Have a good one.