Ante-Post Picks For Cheltenham Festival 2022

Gavin Beech picks out some value plays for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

Ante-Post Picks For Cheltenham Festival 2022
Ante-Post Picks For Cheltenham Festival 2022

Kilcruit - Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Best odds 10/1)

Rachael Blackmore got the fractions spot on aboard Sir Gerhard in this year’s Champion Bumper but that means that some of those in behind deserve close attention when getting more favourable circumstances.

Kilcruit is the obvious one given his profile, although there are one or two in behind that I will come onto later. The race got away from Kilcruit going down the hill as the leader poured it on and built up an unassailable lead but it was to Kilcruit’s great credit that he was able to close right in up the hill and get within half a length of Sir Gerhard.

I went into the Cheltenham race thinking Kilcruit might not be as good as he looked at Leopardstown but I actually came out of it with the complete oppositive view.

This year’s Supreme wouldn’t be a good example but ordinarily, it is a double-figure field race run at a strong tempo, and that would surely be right up Kilcruit’s street.

The only potential danger to this bet is whether connections decide to go up in trip. He is a shorter price to win the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle which suggests there is some feeling out there that he might be going up in trip at some point but for me this horse looks ideally suited by strongly-run two-mile contests at this stage and it would take something pretty special to stop him in next year’s Supreme.

Ferny Hollow – Champion Hurdle (Best odds 12/1)

If you want to have an ante-post bet on the 2022 Champion Hurdle then now is the time to do it because prices will disappear should Honeysuckle’s connections decide that now is the time to switch to fences.

Ferny Hollow didn’t even run at Cheltenham last week but his sole hurdle’s outing resulted in a one-length defeat of Bob Olinger at Gowran Park, form which looks red-hot now. If that’s not enough for you, then how about a two-and-a-half length defeat of Appreciate It in the 2019 Champion Bumper?

Ferny Hollow’s form lines could hardly be any stronger and he looks a proper two-miler so we shouldn’t have any worries about him going up in trip.

A stress fracture cost Ferny Hollow his place in this year’s Cheltenham Festival but his trainer was making positive noises about the prospect pf seeing him at Punchestown. If he were to produce something special there then the 12/1 about him for next year’s Champion will be long gone, even with Honeysuckle still in contention.

Allaho – Champion Chase (Best odds 8/1)

This one takes a bit more imagination but Allaho looked an absolute brute in the Ryanair Chase and I would be surprised if he couldn’t prove as effective dropping back in trip.

There is room at the top for a star two-mile chaser now that Chacun Pour Soi has failed to deliver on the biggest stage and Altior appears to be on his way out.

That star could be Allaho but the gamble here is whether or not connections give him the opportunity or decide that he’s best being kept to mid-range distances around the Ryanair trip.

That might depend to some extent on how the Mullins team feel about Chacun Pour Soi next year. The Champion Chase still eludes Mullins and there must surely be some kind of temptation now to drop Allaho back into that division given the pace and power he showed in the Ryanair.

Allaho broke the hearts of some top-class horses last week, better horses than he would be facing if he were to drop back to two miles, and he would surely take some stopping in the top two-mile Grade 1 contests, given the chance.

Bob Olinger – Marsh Novices’ Chase (Best odds 5/1)

Assuming that connections don’t go up into staying territory with Bob Olinger next season, then the 5/1 about him for the Marsh Chase looks well worth snapping up.

For me, he posted the novice hurdle performance of the week in dismissing top horses like Gaillard Du Mesnil and Bravemansgame and you would certainly not be discouraged by what trainer Henry de Bromhead told the media immediately after that seven-and-a-half length romp.

“He's built like a chaser and jumps like one so we'd normally love going that way but we'll see what everyone wants to do and work from there,” said the trainer so it looks highly likely that he’ll be switched to the bigger obstacles next year and it is not impossible that he could go off the same sort of price that Envoi Allen did this year.

Let us hope he has more luck if he does.

Bravemansgame – Festival Novices’ Chase (Best odds 14/1)

Drying ground wouldn’t have helped Bravemansgame in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and he was outpointed by two horses that have more natural speed over that trip.

However, I still retain a good deal of faith in this horse and still believe that he could be a top-notcher in three-mile chases, especially on soft ground.

Paul Nicholls has been telling everyone all season how good this horse is and his physique has even earned him comparisons with the mighty Denman.

Up in trip and with fences to jump, he can show everyone just why connections rate him so highly and the 14/1 about him for the Festival Novices’ contest just looks too big.

Nicholls won the race with Topofthegame in 2019 and this fellow will surely have that race as his big 2022 target.

Elle Est Belle – Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Best odds 12/1)

As I said earlier, there were a few horses to take out of the Champion Bumper given the way the race was run and Elle Est Belle was yet another one of Dan Skelton’s to run with great credit through the week.

Hopelessly placed given the way the race was run, Elle Est Belle passed every rival bar the front two, finishing her race off in really taking fashion.

Having dead-heated in a Listed bumper at the track in November, Elle Est Belle has shown that she loves Prestbury Park and connections will surely be targeting the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle with her next year.

The Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle has been dominated by the Irish so far but Elle Est Belle looks an obvious candidate for the race at this stage providing she takes well to hurdles, which is unlikely to be an issue given there are winning hurdlers in her family.