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One of the great attractions of National Hunt racing is the fact that the top horses can race on, year after year. There will be several defending champions on show in the feature races at this year’s Cheltenham meeting and numerous former winners from past festivals. We have picked out five star names that are available at odds from 10-1 to 33-1 to turn back the clock next month.
Al Boum Photo
Willie Mullins skilfully masterminded back-to-back Cheltenham Gold Cup victories for Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020. The horse was given a very light campaign, comfortably winning at Tramore on New Year’s Day before going straight to the Festival. Mullins kept to this tried and tested formula last year but the gelding could not get to the Henry de Bromhead-trained pair, Minella Indo and A Plus Tard. He has followed the same training schedule once again this year and is a 10-1 shot to recapture his crown.
Sire Du Berlais
Sire Du Berlais landed a big gamble in the 2019 Pertemps Final and then repeated his victory off a 7lbs higher mark in 2020. Last year he was a respectable second in the Stayers’ Hurdle but has drifted out to 28-1 for that race after a couple of disappointing efforts. He was struck into when finishing fourth in a Pertemps qualifier last time, a race for which he is 16-1 to secure a remarkable third victory. He would be only the second horse in history to achieve that feat after the legendary Cheltenham specialist Willie Wumpkins (1979, 1980, 1981).
Envoi Allen was rated a future Gold Cup winner after consecutive Festival wins in the Champion Bumper (2019) and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (2020). He won his first three races over fences but suffered his first career loss when falling in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at last year’s Festival meeting. Despite winning a Grade 1 chase at Leopardstown in December, he has been virtually friendless in the Cheltenham ante-post betting. He has been taken out of the Gold Cup but still holds entries in the Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase.
Burning Victory was a fortuitous winner of the Triumph Hurdle in 2020 when runaway leader Goshen unseated his rider at the last. The mare showed her versatility when finishing second to Buzz in the Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket in October. She has failed to sparkle in her two races over hurdles so far this season but is likely to have several Cheltenham entries. She has yet to show that she stays three miles and is 25-1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle but as short as 8-1 for the Mares’ Hurdle over two and a half miles.
Put The Kettle On
Henry de Bromhead trained Put The Kettle On to surprise victories in the Arkle Trophy (2020) and the Queen Mother Champion Chase (2021). Her form has dropped alarmingly this season, particularly last time out when last of five to Mount Ida at Fairyhouse. The Champion Chase looks one of the hottest renewals in recent times with Shishkin and Energumene renewing rivalry. De Bromhead could run Put The Kettle On in the Mares’ Chase (12-1) but has not ruled a repeat bid in the Champion Chase (20-1), particularly if the going is soft.