Cheltenham Trials day has been and gone, and all eyes are now firmly on next month’s meeting. It won’t be long until that famous roar echoes around Prestbury Park. For those looking to have a punt, the odds for betting on 2020 Cheltenham Festival are constantly changing – with many predictions being guided by the results at the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend. But who are the horses you need to keep an eye on? Here is our list of five to watch.
The Joseph O’Brien-trained horse may not have featured at the Dublin Racing Festival Irish Arkle, where he was expected to come up against Notebook, but Fakir D’oudairies is among the favorites for both the Arkle Chase and the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham. Since finishing fourth in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the five-year-old has gone on to place in every one of his subsequent races, including two wins at the back end of last year. Fakir D’oudairies certainly has the stamina, having won the two-mile and four-furlong Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse by an incredible 22 lengths, in December.
Irish-trainer Willie Mullins is always well-represented at Cheltenham and this year is no exception. After easing to victory at last month’s Beginners’ Chase at Fairyhouse, Allaho is expected to win at least one of his entered races. The six-year-old has made the early entries list for the Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase, the Novices’ Chase and the Marsh Novices’ Chase. Having come on since his season debut, when he finished fourth, with two wins and three placed-finishes, Allaho will be one to watch not only this year but in the future.
Gordon Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen has gone into every one of his races as either the favorite or joint-favorite – and that’s some pressure. Of those eight races, he’s won the six that he completed, pulling up in last year’s Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and more recently, falling in the Novice Chase at Leopardstown only last weekend. The seven-year-old is down to race in the Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase, the Novices’ Chase and the Marsh Novices’ Chase – where he will no doubt face rival Faugheen, once again.
The Big Breakaway
One of Colin Tizzard’s hot prospects, The Big Breakaway missed last month’s Cheltenham Trials Day, following a knock to a joint. While Tizzard hopes he will be able to get some prep in before the Festival begins, he also added The Big Breakaway’s experience to date should land him in good stead if it’s not possible. The trainer told Sporting Life: “We will probably run him in about a fortnight’s time – and if we don’t get there he will go straight to the Festival. He doesn’t need to run again. He has been pointing last season, so he has experience.” The five-year-old has three wins from three starts, all as the favorite and looks set to enter two Novices’ Hurdle races at Cheltenham.
The eight-year-old trained by Elliott seems to have fallen off the radar somewhat, since his successes in the Novices’ Hurdles at Leopardstown and Cheltenham in early 2018. Racing in senior hurdles has not been kind to Samcro who fell on his debut at Punchestown. His debut in the Beginners’ Chase at Down Royal ended in victory, but steeplechase hasn’t been as straightforward as both horse and jockey Jack Kennedy would have liked. He recently fell at Fairyhouse before two out, when he had been in the lead – surrendering his advantage and handing victory to Fakir D’oudairies. It’s fair to say that all eyes will be on Samcro to see if he can resurrect his career and return to those glory days that were previously so frequent.