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2020 Cheltenham Festival tips - Big Race Yankee bet for the four Championship races

Brian Healy looks ahead to the four Championship races at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival with a big race ante-post Yankee.

Brian Healy takes an early ante-post at the championship races for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and puts together an early Yankee bet covering all four races.

There were some big performances over the four days’ of the Cheltenham Festival, and the Championship races on each of the days didn’t disappoint with plenty of thrills and excitement across the week.

The hotly-anticipated Buveur D’air v Laurina v Apple’s Jade showdown failed to materialise and Gavin Cromwell’s Espoir D’Allen took top honours in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle; while on Wednesday, Altior won a second successive Champion Chase, although Nicky Henderson’s charge was made to work for his victory.

An emotional Stayers’ Hurdle saw Paisely Park finish strongly to give owner Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth, a huge win in Thursday’s showpiece; while Al Boum Photo ended Willie Mullins’ long wait for a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner when romping to victory in Friday’s Blue Riband.

Although still fresh in the memory, we look ahead to the 2020 renewals of the four Cheltenham Festival Championship races with an early ante-post Yankee on all four top-class contests.

2020 CHAMPION HURDLE


The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle used to be a decent barometer towards future winners of this race, but in more recent seasons the winners of the day one opener have gone on to tackle fences in seasons following their win.

Dual-Champion Hurdle winner BUVEUR D’AIR (8/1, Paddy Power) contested the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, finishing third to Altior, and while the defending champion was an early casualty in the 2019 renewal of the Champion Hurdle, the Crillon gelding could be worth keeping faith with to regain his crown in 2020.

It hasn’t been the best of campaigns for Nicky Henderson’s star who had earlier suffered his first reversal since that Supreme Novices’ Hurdle defeat when surprisingly being turned over at Kempton by stablemate Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle having earlier won the Fighting Fifth Hurdle for a second year with an impressive win at Newcastle on his reappearance.

Despite winning at Sandown subsequently, and having already won the Champion Hurdle twice, he wasn’t sent off favourite for a third crown, and he got no further than the third flight when crashing out of contention. 

Next season could see the Crillon gelding take a similar path, and although he’ll be a nine-year old come the next renewal it would be unwise to overlook Buveur D’air in twelve months’ time regaining his title. 

Dual-Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'air could wrestle back his crown in 2020.


2020 CHAMPION CHASE


ALTIOR (3/1, Paddy Power) extended his unbeaten run over obstacles to 18 wins when scoring a second straight success in the Champion Chase; but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the High Chaparral gelding who made a bad mistake at the water jump, and Nicky Henderson’s charge had to dig deep having jumped the last fence behind Sceau Royal.

While he stayed on strongly up the hill to ultimately win a shade readily, seeing him on the back-foot - albeit briefly - may have hinted that he perhaps isn’t invincible for all he remains the one to beat again in 2020 having already triumphed most of the competition.

It is highly likely that the likes of Politologue, Sceau Royal and Min will reoppose him again in twelve months’ time, and it remains difficult to envisage any of them overturning the 2019 form with the dual-Champion Chase winner.

Arkle winners have a good record in the race, and indeed Altior himself won the 2017 Arkle Chase prior to claiming the first of his two Champion Chase crowns the following year; while other past Arkle/Champion Chase winners include Sprinter Sacre, Sizing Europe, Moscow Flyer and Azertyioup.

Duc De Genievres won the latest Arkle Chase and will likely line up in opposition. While he won well at Cheltenham, the race fell apart to some degree with Glen Forsa departing early, and the fall of Ornua also took out Kalashnikov, while race-favourite Hardline and Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor both struggled in the conditions to get competitive.

It remains to be seen whether Willie Mullins’ charge will be up to the task of halting Altior’s dominance of the two-mile division. Assuming trainer Nicky Henderson keeps the dual-Champion Chase winner to the minimum trip in a bid for a treble in the race and equal the three wins of Badsworth Boy then he remains the one to beat in the contest. 

Dual-Champion Chase winner Altior was made to work for his second success, but he remains the one to beat.


2020 STAYERS’ HURDLE

The Stayers’ Hurdle has a habit of throwing up multiple winners of the race, with the last being the imperious Big Bucks’ who won the race four times in all; and Emma Lavelle’s PAISLEY PARK (7/2, William Hill) could become the latest in line to capture this prize more than once.

Owned by Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth, the Oscar gelding was following up his Cleeve Hurdle success with an almost carbon-copy performance where having looked beaten turning into the straight and facing the climb to the line he found an extra gear to fly home up the rails. Despite making a mistake at the last hurdle, he held plenty in reserve to hold off a rejuvenated Sam Spinner and take his winning tally for the season to five.

He is only a seven-year old so there is probably still room for further improvement, and in his run he displayed similar characteristics of hitting a flat spot before finding a change of pace that were prevalent traits in previous top-class winners of the Stayers’ Hurdle in Big Buck’s and Inglis Drever.

The Albert Bartlett doesn’t have much history of producing subsequent Stayers’ Hurdle champions, and his biggest threat in 2020 could come from the deposed Penhill who took the Albert Bartlett in 2017 prior to the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2018; but Willie Mullins’ charge missed out on a title defence through injury.

That one trounced all-comers twelve months ago, but he was then readily put in his place by Faugheen at Punchestown. Emma Lavelle’s charge had Faugheen almost seven lengths in arrears so strictly on that line of form it would suggest Penhill will need to raise his game if he is to wrestle back his crown from Paisley Park who could make the staying hurdle division his own for a few seasons to come.

Paisley Park could be a dominant force in the Stayers' Hurdle for a few years to come.


2020 GOLD CUP


Al Boum Photo ended Willie Mullins’ long wait for a Cheltenham Gold Cup success,and the Buck’s Boum gelding was a convincing winner in the end. He could again lock horns with Bristol De Mai (third) and now-deposed champion Native River (fourth) in twelve months’ time; but PRESENTING PERCY (16/1, William Hill) could be worth giving another chance to, and Pat Kelly’s charge can show up better than he was able to in the 2019 renewal.

The RSA Chase is usually a strong pointer towards future Gold Cup winners, so it would be no surprise to see the likes of Topofthegame, Santini and Delta Work all make the jump to the 2020 renewal; and 2018 winner Presenting Percy was sent off favourite for the Friday showpiece having beaten the Gold Cup winner convincingly in that RSA Chase win twelve months ago.

The Presenting gelding underwent an unorthodox campaign under the tutelate of his shrewd handler, making just one start in the season which came in the Galmoy Hurdle which he won impressively from Bapaume. Not seen out again until lining up at Cheltenham, big race jockey Davy Russell never seemed happy on board the eight-year old who didn’t jump well throughout the Gold Cup, but he was found to be lame when crossing the line in eighth place.

That was his first defeat at Cheltenham having won on each of his two previous visits to the Festival, and he can be excused the run as a result. He is likely to return for another crack at the Blue Riband in 2020, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a more orthodox approach to his preparation.

The Gold Cup was also only his sixth run over fences, so lacking in experience he ought to be more streetwise in twelve months’ time, and despite his below-par Gold Cup bid this time around he remains one to keep faith with with an eye to next year’s contest.

Presenting Percy (noseband) finished lame in the Gold Cup and could be worth another chance.


2020 CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL TIPS - CHAMPIONSHIP RACES ANTE-POST YANKEE

Champion Hurdle - BUVEUR D’AIR (8/1, Paddy Power)

Champion Chase - ALTIOR (3/1, Paddy Power)

Stayers' Hurdle - PAISLEY PARK(7/2, William Hill)

Gold Cup - PRESENTING PERCY (16/1, William Hill)

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2020 Cheltenham Festival tips - Big Race Yankee bet for the four Championship races

Brian Healy takes an early ante-post at the championship races for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and puts together an early Yankee bet covering all four races.

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