Cheltenham Festival: Will Nicky Henderson’s absence shuffle the deck?


Posted March 7, 2023 in More

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The Cheltenham Festival has seen talented trainers, including Nicky Henderson, who has trained 72 winners, a figure beaten only by Willie Mullins’ 88. Although races are still lined up for his horses, Henderson made the mistake of leaving Epantante out of his Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle entries. 

Furthermore, there are 28 horses entered so far for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but Nicky Henderson’s Champ is not one of them. The horse had a successful seasonal comeback at Newbury but was defeated by Paisley Park in the rescheduled Long Walk Hurdle at Kempton. Consequently, Nicky Henderson gave Champ a break-in and built him for the Aintree instead.

Will Champ to miss the Stayer’s hurdle affect the betting odds for this year’s events? What are we expecting for the 2023 festival, especially from Henderson’s other runners? This article will provide answers to these questions and better insight into the Cheltenham Festival. 

Cheltenham Festival: The best horse racing event?

The first Cheltenham Festival occurred in 1860 when Market Harborough hosted the National Hunt Chase. Originally called the Grand National Hunt Meeting, this event has been held in several different places since its inception; however, at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was regularly hosted at Warwick Racecourse. It was moved to Cheltenham for the first time in 1861, and in 1904 and 1905, it was held on a new course built at Prestbury Park.

Stayers’ Hurdle is the oldest event at the Cheltenham festival, and the first race took place in 1912. It is followed by the Gold Cup, which was introduced to the festival in 1924. The Champion and the Queen Mother Champion Chase debuted in 1927 and 1959, respectively. More races have since been added, bringing 28 races to be held during the event. 

The Cheltenham Festival usually occurs in March and coincides with St. Patrick’s Day. It starts with the Supreme Novices Hurdle, and the Gold Cup crowns the festival on the last day. For 2023, the festival will run from March 14 to 17, featuring different events each day. These include:

  • Day One: The Unibet Champion Hurdle
  • Day Two: The Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeplechase
  • Day Three: The Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle Race and the Ryanair Steeplechase
  • Day Four: The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup

This premier race attracts the best racehorses and the most accomplished trainers and owners, who consider a victory at Cheltenham a great accomplishment. With the best horses competing each day, it’s no surprise that the event is a significant draw for horse racing fans. 

Nicky Henderson’s mistake increases the interest

Besides being an exciting event, fans enjoy the thrill of betting on these races. That said, excellent NonGamstopSites operators that are safe and not blocked by Gamban, offer multiple markets and odds for each event held during these four days. Some bookies also offer “Trainer Specials,” where you can wager on the trainer with the most winning horses after the event. 

One of the most bet-on racehorse trainers is Nicky Henderson. His most noteworthy achievements were with the Champion Hurdle winner, See You Then, in addition to Binocular, Remittance Man, and Punjabi. Henderson has earned the title “top trainer” at the Cheltenham Festival six times. 

The highly regarded trainer failed to enter Epatante, his 2020 Champion Hurdle winner, for the Grade 1 Mares Hurdle to be held on the opening day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival. The 72-year-old verified that race is still the goal for Epatante, but he will have to pay the £4,599 supplement to get the nine-year-old back into the two-mile contest due to his error.

When the list of runners was published on Tuesday, Champ’s name was outside the 28 entries. It has been decided that the victor of the RSA Chase in 2020 will not compete at Prestbury Park but travel to Merseyside for the Grand National in April of that year. Despite his success on his seasonal comeback at Newbury, Champ lost to Paisley Park in the rescheduled Long Walk Hurdle. So, instead of Cheltenham, Champ is to be prepped for Aintree. 

What are the predictions for the Cheltenham Festival

Even when Henderson failed to enter Epatante for the Cheltenham Festival earlier, he still had formidable contenders in the racing event. In fact, it’s impossible to review favourites and underdogs at Cheltenham Festival without mentioning the horses he trained. Aside from Epatante, let’s explore the trainer’s other top contenders.

Constitution Hill

After his dominating victory in the Supreme last year, all roads led to the Champion Hurdle. His preparation has been flawless, as evidenced by his Grade 1 wins at Newcastle and Kempton, which he won by a combined 29 lengths. State Man has replaced Honeysuckle as Ireland’s top two-mile hurdler, so Constitution Hill will face his toughest competition. Given his apparent prowess, though, he looks promising. 

Luccia

Luccia is favoured to win the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. She’s had two resounding wins over hurdles, the most recent being an 11-length romp at Exeter on February 12. This was after she had to skip Tolworth due to an unsatisfactory scope. However, there’s a good chance that Henderson will play it safe by choosing a supposedly less challenging event.

Jonbon

Constitution Hill was the only thing that kept Jonbon from following in the footsteps of his older sibling, Douvan, and winning the Supreme. Now he hopes to emulate his famous brother by repeating the feat of winning the Arkle. Jonbon has made a reasonably seamless transition to chasing, if not entirely seamless, and he has had three victories so far.

Marie’s Rock

Her most recent race result was mind-blowing. She took the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham by six lengths, with Dashel Drasher and stablemate First Street unable to overtake her. The fact that she won the Relkeel and finished strongly suggests that running three miles will be fine for her. She stands a good chance of winning either the mares’ or stayers’ hurdle, though both are highly competitive.

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