It’s not how we know it but it’s still the greatest show on earth.
The 2021 Cheltenham Festival is upon us and, despite the worrying prevalence of small fields in some of the Grade 1 races, we have superstars and potential superstars to drool over – as well as the handicaps that can offer more scope for big-price winners than taking on the hotpots.
British hopes likely rest on Metier and Soaring Glory, who has cheekpieces for the first time.
The late scratching of Energumene has rendered the Sporting Life Arkle (1.55), with just runners, a much easier task for the brilliant Shishkin. How good might he be? It will help tell us more if the front-running Allmankind can give him a battle.
The Ultima (2.30) is fiendishly difficult, Betfair Sportsbook offering five each-way places. Robbie Power has failed to get around on Discordantly the last twice but, were the duo to get its act together, Jessica Harrington’s charge looks feasible off a rating of 142.
No doubt about the highlight on day one: the Unibet Champion Hurdle (3.05). It is somewhat anomalous that, despite the talk about the four-day festival and new races diluting the quality of yesteryear, and there now being three mares’ races where they used to be one, two mares are expected to fight out the finish here.
Betfair offers four places here and that makes 15-2 Abacadabras really appealing each-way. Touched off by Shishkin last year, the ground has come right for him, and trainer Sneezy Foster is in terrific form. Expect Jack Kennedy to leave it late.