Cheltenham 2022 - Championship Races Preview


Cheltenham Ante Post Preview


Not long now racing fans, as the 2022 Cheltenham Festival looms large on the horizon. As ever we are set for a bumper 28 races spread over the course of the meeting, including four of the real jewels in the National Hunt crown. The Irish registered a remarkable clean sweep in the showpiece contests 12 months ago, but how are things shaping up in 2022?

Champion Hurdle: Sweet Success for Honey?

Where else to start in the opening day feature than with defending champion, Honeysuckle. A 4/7 shot with William Hill, the Henry de Bromhead trained mare tuned up for this with a 6½ length slamming of Zanahiyr in the Irish Champion Hurdle - taking her career record to a remarkable 14 wins from as many outings. On that evidence the mount of Rachael Blackmore looks as well as ever, and the one to beat.

there is rarely such a thing as a one-horse race, but if not Honeysuckle, then who?

Of course, there is rarely such a thing as a one-horse race, but if not Honeysuckle, then who? Appreciate It is in at 7/2 with Coral and may rate the most likely danger having made a mockery of the opposition in last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle, and with Willie Mullins in his corner may prove up to the task. Of the rest, 2020 champ Epatante is a 10/1 shot with bet365, whilst Gordon Elliott’s rapid improver, Teahupoo, is the unknown quantity in the field at 7/1 with the sponsors Unibet.

Queen Mother Champion Chase: Shiskin, Britain’s Biggest Hope?

Following in the hoofprints of Sprinter Sacre and Altior, Shiskin (4/5 with William Hill) is the latest star to roll off the Nicky Henderson production line. A perfect seven from seven as a chaser, the eight-year-old already has two Cheltenham Festival successes in the book, courtesy of wins in the 2020 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle Chase 12 months ago. Having mastered his main market rival Energumene (3/1 with Ladbrokes) last time out in the Ascot Chase, many consider the mount of Nico de Boinville to be the British trained banker of the meeting.

Energumene can’t be dismissed entirely at a track which may suit, but many believe the biggest threat may come from another Willie Mullins runner - Chacun Pour Soi. Third in the race twelve months ago, he warmed up for this with a scintillating display in the Grade 1 Dublin Chase and may not be far away if arriving here in the same form. This Rich Ricci owned runner is a 6/1 shot with Coral.

Stayers Hurdle: Paisley The Prestbury Park King?

Philipp Hobbs, Thyme Hill, is the shortest of the British runners at 9/2 with Coral, but needs to turn the tables with Nicky Henderson’s Champ (5/1 with Ladbrokes) on their running in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. Champ will likely prove popular but was in turn put in his place by a resurgent Paisley Park (7/1 with Betfred) in the Cleve Hurdle here in January. Following a spell in the doldrums, that last to first effort was much more like it from Paisley Park, and the Andrew Gemmell owned runner will be carrying the hopes of many as he bids to reclaim a prize he won back in 2019.

Gold Cup: Can Anyone Repel the Irish Battalions?

2021 runner up A Plus Tard heads the Gold Cup betting at 10/3 with Betfred, with his 22L Betfair Chase destruction being one of the staying chase performances of the season to date. At 4/1 with William Hill, Galvin has slowly worked his way towards the head of the market and rubber stamped his credentials when getting up late to mug A Plus Tard in the shadow of the post in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown. If coming up the hill to such effect, he looks a major threat to all.

Minella Indo (5/1 with bet365) merits respect as the defending champion, but hasn’t shown his very best form this season, whilst Al Boum Photo (10/1 with Coral) has been here and bought the t-shirt not once, but twice, having landed back-to-back editions in 2019 and 2020. A stablemate to Al Boum Photo, Toronado Flyer (10/1 with SkyBet) threw his hat into the ring with a strong staying success in the King George at Kempton and may well take to this. And moving a little further down the list, what about Gordon Elliott’s Conflated (12/1 with William Hill) who powered right away to grab Irish Gold Cup glory last time out. Dan Skelton’s impressive Many Clouds Chase winner Protektorat (8/1 with Coral) is the only British trained runner available at a single figure price in a race dominated by the raiders.

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