It’s just a matter of days until the 2021 Cheltenham Festival (16th-19th March) gets underway. And even though there won’t be any fans in attendance to deliver the famous “Cheltenham Roar”, it’s still a huge deal for punters in the UK and beyond.
The nature of the Cheltenham Festival means it’s not about one race, star horse, jockey or trainer. Even the most prestigious event, the Gold Cup, can be overshadowed by other races in a given year.
But if there is anyone ‘big’ enough to cast a shadow over the entire festival this year, then it is Irish trainer Willie Mullins. Already the most decorated trainer of the event’s history, he brings a clutch of brilliant horses with superb chances in some of the best races. No yard has better form in jumps racing than Mullins’ right now, and he might just break his own record of training eight winners at a single festival.
Al Boum Photo is Consensus Pick for Another Gold Cup
So, where do you begin with Mullins’ runners this year?
Perhaps it’s best to start with Al Boum Photo, the horse that seems capable of being the greatest headline generator this year. Gunning for a historic Gold Cup on 19th March, Al Boum Photo tops the Cheltenham Day 4 tips and predictions from a majority of experts. While his rivals have floundered in races leading up to Cheltenham, the lightly-raced 9-year-old has had the perfect preparation for his hat-trick bid. He is 3/1 for the Gold Cup, and it’s really hard to make a case for any of his inconsistent rivals.
In the opening race of the festival, the Supreme Novices Hurdle, Mullins has the hot-favourite, Appreciate It, generally available at 7/4. That seems like a banker in a race that Mullins has won six times previously. Later in the day, the Arkle looks a bit tougher for Energumene as it features odds-on favourite, Shishkin. Still, you’d think that plenty of punters will have a nibble on Energumene at 5/2.
Elsewhere on Day 1, Mullins will run Concertista in the Mares’ Hurdle, who seems like another banker at just over evens. While Mullins has neither of the two favourites for the Champion Hurdle, many will see each-way value in the likes of Sharjah for the feature race.
On Day 2, Gaillard Du Mesnil will go off as favourite for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, and the current price of 5/2 ante-post looks decent value. You could see plenty of punters going for a Mullins’ double for the first two races, as the brilliant Monkfish goes in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. The highlight of the day is the Champion Chase, a race that Mullins has never won. But he has the clear favourite, Chacun Pour Soi ready to change things.
Gaillard Du Mesnil, Monkfish and Chacun Pour Soi could be on many betting slips as a treble or patent on 17th March.
Decision to be Made on Kemboy
Day 3, St Patrick’s Thursday, looks a bit quieter for Mullins, but he has still some big chances.
Allaho and Min, who are 5/1 and 6/1 respectively, could easily be the first two home in the Ryanair Chase. And, if he chooses the Stayers’ Hurdle, Kemboy at 20/1 might be the outstanding bet of the festival. We would advise you to wait until Mullins’ makes his intentions known with Kemboy, as he does retain an entry for the Gold Cup. If you do take those Stayers’ Hurdle odds, you should ensure there is NRNB (no runner no bet) applied to your wager.
We have already dealt with Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup, but Mullins does have other chances on the final day of Cheltenham. Stattler looks like good value at 7/1 in the Albert Bartlett. But the bet of the day might be the brilliant Elimay in the Mares’ Chase. This is a new race added to the festival, but nobody has had more success than Mullins with turning mares with potential into superstars.
So, there you have it – the briefest of overviews on some of Willie Mullins’ best runners at Cheltenham 2021. If we haven’t highlighted at least six winners above, it will be nothing short of a shock. Sure, Mullins can be susceptible to a surprise loss as much as the next trainer. But the stars seemed to have aligned to make this a vintage festival for Mullins, and he might just put smiles on the face of punters who back him.