The entries have been revealed for the major races at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival which runs from 10th to 13th March. Al Boum Photo is among 31 horses declared for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Epatante heading a list of 36 entries for the Champion Hurdle.
The Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of the National Hunt season in the UK with 28 races over four days. The meeting attracts an average daily attendance of more than 62,000 and bets totalling an estimated £600 million are placed during the week.
Epatante favourite for Champion Hurdle
Many previous winners will be back to defend their crowns but sadly that is not the case in the Champion Hurdle. 2019 winner Espoir d’Allen had to be put down after suffering a serious shoulder injury. Buveur d’Air, successful in 2017 and 2018, is also absent after picking up an injury at Newcastle in November.
Both horses raced in the colours of JP McManus who owns the new favourite, Epatante. She was a spectacular winner of the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park for Nicky Henderson. There is a strong Irish entry, led by last year’s Supreme Hurdle winner Klassical Dream.
Al Boum Photo is on course to defend his title in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Bristol De Mai (third), Native River (fourth) and Clan Des Obeaux (fifth) are also among the entries for the blue riband event. Other notable entries include Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work and Punchestown Gold Cup winner Kemboy.
The going could have a big impact on the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting. 2018 winner Native River loves the mud while dual King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux would struggle to get home if the ground came up testing. Lostintranslation was an impressive winner of the Betfair Chase but ran well below his best at Kempton Park.
Altior Seeking Third Champion Chase Victory
Altior will attempt to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase for the third year running. Nicky Henderson’s stable star suffered his first defeat in 20 races when beaten by Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot. That was over an extended two and a half miles and he now reverts to his optimum trip.
Altior won’t have things all his own way with Defi Du Seuil the new favourite after his easy win in the Clarence House Chase. The former Triumph Hurdle winner sprinted clear of Un De Sceaux before being eased down by Barry Geraghty. Chacun Pour Soi defeated Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown last year and is another exciting prospect.
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The Cheltenham banker bet Frodon produced one of the highlights of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival when winning the Ryanair Chase. He was roared home by the huge crowd after an inspired front-running ride by Bryony Frost. The combination teamed up successfully at Kempton in January and won’t go down without a fight.
Possible rivals include A Plus Tard, Min and Riders Onthe Storm. Min is one of a ten-strong entry from Willie Mullins, previously successful with Vautour (2016) and Un De Sceaux (2017). Min has finished behind Altior over two miles at the last three Cheltenham Festival meetings. He has looked even better over two and a half miles, notably when winning by 20 lengths at Aintree in April.
Everyone likes to have a banker bet at the Cheltenham Festival and Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle fits the bill. Emma Lavelle’s eight-year-old has had a much lighter campaign than last season when he won all five starts. He confirmed his well-being at Newbury in November and this race has a history of repeat winners, most notably Big Buck’s (2009 to 2012).
Possible rivals include 2018 winner Penhill, one of seven entries from the powerful Willie Mullins stable. If The Cap Fits was a very game winner at Aintree last April and showed the same battling qualities to win the Ascot Hurdle in November. Apple’s Jade could line up at the Cheltenham Festival for the fifth consecutive season after her impressive victory at Leopardstown in December.