The passion for jump racing is about to reach new heights as another enthralling National Hunt season is upon us. The popular winter game is always a winner with punters. Unlike the flat season where the big winners seem to vanish as quickly as they bolt up, the household names in jump racing return year after year.
Constitution Hill, potentially the greatest national hunt horse of all time, is the name on everybody’s lips again this season. Some expressed disappointment over the summer when his handler Nicky Henderson announced that the Champion Hurdler would not be seeking a career over the larger obstacles.
However, connections with the legendary Istabraq must have raised their eyebrows as his record hat trick wins in The Champion Hurdle now looks firmly under threat of being emulated by Constitution Hill.
In this preview of the upcoming new jumps season, we assess the big Cheltenham Festival championship races and pick some early ante post value bets from our partner firms, Bet365, William Hill, Betfred, Bet Victor and Boylesports. We also check out some of the best hopes from the Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls yards.
THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL, 12-13-14-15 MARCH
The Champion Hurdle
As an antepost betting opportunity, the Grade One 2-mile hurdle senior championship on Day One is, plainly speaking, a very avoidable damp squid. Constitution Hill stands at a perfectly logical 4/9 but who in their right mind backs horses at those kinds of odds 6 months before?
Of course, a second Champion Hurdle is for Constitution Hill to lose: only unfortunate circumstances stand in the way of the horse regaining his crown.
There is simply no competition against this juggernaut, at least for this season. Impaire Et Passe might figure with improvement but is no value at 13/2. The only genuinely interesting option here could be the Paul Nicholls trained Rubaud, who is going in the right direction and worth tracking.
Constitution Hill 4/9 (Bet365, William Hill, Boylesports)
Impaire Et Passe 13/2 (bet365)
State Man 8/1 (Bet Victor)
Marine Nationale 25/1 (Bet365)
Vauban 25/1 (Bet365, Bet Victor, Betfred, Boylesports)
Lossiemouth 25/1 (Bet365, Betfred, Boylesports)
The Champion Chase
A fascinating and very open Champion Chase market, made even more so by the recent thunderbolt that the current champion Energumene is almost certainly out for the season with a hind leg injury, according to trainer Willie Mullins.
Next best on ratings Edwardstone is arguably over exposed now which opens the possibility of a progressive novice coming through, such as Jonbon or his conqueror in the Arkle, El Fabiolo.
I think Jonbon will improve further this season and will certainly get more competitive with El Fabiolo although the Mullins horse is a powerhouse based on his performances so far. Ferny Hollow could be worth tracking, currently best priced at 33/1 with Bet365.
The Stayers Hurdle
After last season’s bonanza for the bookmakers, with the two rank outsiders Sire Du Berlais and Dashel Drasher finishing 1st and 2nd respectively, the market looks a little muddled.
This is by far the most open Stayers Hurdle in living memory with few entries being able to claim credentials as potential winner. The Gordon Elliott trained Teahupoo leads the market at 6/1 whilst Maries Rock may retain the Mares Hurdle route.
French entry Theleme could be worth tracking and holds best odds of 12/1 with bet365. The eventual favourite for this race will most likely emerge from lower down the betting.
Teahupoo 6/1 (bet365, William Hill, Betfred, Bet Victor)
Impaire Et Passe 12/1 (bet365)
Maries Rock 12/1 (William Hill, Betfred)
Theleme 12/1 (bet365)
Sire Du Berlais 20/1 (bet365, Bet Victor, Boylesports)
The Ryanair Chase
A fascinating renewal of the 2m 5f championship race. Last season’s race was thrown into some disarray as hot race favourite Allaho picked up an injury, leaving Envoi Allen to win comfortably.
One of the current best ante post bets around, Envoi Allen is available at 20/1 to regain his crown next March. However, with the likes of El Fabiolo, Shishkin, Jonbon and of course Allaho, this is a mighty competitive Grade 1 on Day 3 of The Cheltenham Festival.
Stage Star’s price at 16/1 with bet365 could get interesting. The Turners Chase winner is currently installed as favourite for next month’s big handicap at The Cheltenham November Meeting.
Jonbon 6/1 (William Hill)
Allaho 7/1 (bet365)
El Fabiolo 10/1 (bet365, Betfred, Boylesports)
Shishkin 12/1 (William Hill)
Stage Star 16/1 (bet365)
Impervious 14/1 (Betfred, Boylesports)
Banbridge 16/1 (bet365)
Envoi Allen 20/1 (bet365)
The Cheltenham Gold Cup
Very difficult to look beyond the imperious Galopin Des Champs who despite being held up at the back of the field for most of last season’s renewal, ran out a superb winner to beat Bravemansgame by 7 lengths.
Bravemansgame will improve but surely cannot make up those 7 lengths. However, all eyes will be on the seasonal reappearance of Fastorslow who surprised everyone by beating Gallopin Des Champs in the Punchestown Gold Cup a month after The Gold Cup. Did the Punchestown race come too quick after The Gold Cup?
Gerri Colombe, returning to action this weekend at Down Royal's Champion Chase, will be looking to follow up on his impressive win at Aintree’s Mildmay Novices' Chase although he did not beat much. His Cheltenham credentials are still suspect after losing out to The Real Whacker in the Brown Advisory. The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained horse is also therefore in the mix.
Galopin Des Champs 2/1 (bet365)
Gerri Colombe 7/1 (Betfred)
Bravemansgame 12/1 (bet365, William Hill)
Shishkin 14/1 (bet365, William Hill)
Fastorslow 14/1 (William Hill, Bet Victor)
The Real Whacker 20/1 (bet365, William Hill)
The Somerset handler prepares another 160 strong team to retain the trainers championship and after a few lean years at The Cheltenham Festival, the team bounced back with their first Grade 1 winner in The Turners Chase with Stage Star.
Star of the yard, Bravemansgame followed up King George success with a very creditable second to Gallopin Des Champs in The Cheltenham Gold Cup. Stay Away Fay was also a surprise winner in the Albert Bartlett.
Officially the top rated chaser in Britain, the team are all set for another tilt at The King George on Boxing Day for the Gold Cup runner-up. A similar route to last year is planned by taking in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby although that will depend on the ground. After the King George, Bravemansgame will be kept fresh for a busy April campaign according to Nicholls.
The Turners Chase winner looks set to make a reappearance at The Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Cheltenham November Meeting, a race where successful Festival novices have performed well in the past. The horse prefers going left-handed so it is unlikely he will take a chance in The King George so the Cheltenham run next month will tell us more.
Stay Away Fay
The Albert Bartlett winner looks set for a season novice chasing where he has the potential to be a tough stayer.
Hugos New Horse
Progressed well last season through the novice ranks although he suffered a poor run in his seasonal reappearance at the Cheltenham Showcase meeting last weekend, hanging left and running too freely. This will be no doubt worked on at Ditcheat so worth tracking.
Potential star in the making, Inthewaterside won 2 bumpers last season and won on his seasonal reappearance in a maiden hurdle at Aintree last weekend. Sure to improve through working his way up the novice ranks this season.
Interesting German prospect who just lost out on losing his maiden at Wincanton last weekend. According to Paul Nicholls, the horse is similar in profile to Irving who won two Fighting Fifths for the yard.
We have mentioned the colossus that is Constitution Hill so this will concentrate on the other potential stars this season for the Seven Barrows handler.
Despite not quite fulfilling his star potential, there is still no doubting the talent this horse possesses. If his quirky attitude to racing could be resolved and his jumping and travelling fine-tuned, the sky is the limit.
Let us not forget he finished off last season in fine style, beating Ahoy Senor to land the Betway Bowl at Aintree. The plan is The King George with possibly The Charlie Hall Chase or Betfair Chase en route.
Henderson reports Jonbon to be in fine fettle and The Tingle Creek is the early target although The Shloer Chase during The Cheltenham November Meeting will not be ruled out. The Champion Chase is clearly the long term target although he will have to overcome his nemesis El Fabiolo who took the JP McManus owned horse’s scalp at last season’s Arkle.
Others to note
A recent Seven Barrows stable tour revealed that Blairgowrie might be useful for novice handicap chases whilst Attaca will be back in action from injury after a very good early season as a novice hurdler last year.
Montecam will attract some interest being a half brother to Altior and will continue down the bumper route having made his debut in May this year.
Lots of accolades were given to East India Express who is a great jumper according to Henderson. He won impressively on his bumper debut back in February.
Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (9:00am 1st November 2023) and are subject to change.