Cheltenham Festival Tips – Rating the Chances of the Odds on Favourites Shishkin, Envoi Allen, Chacun Pour Soi and Monkfish
The 2021 Cheltenham Festival schedule includes a total of 28 races, just four of which, at the time of writing, feature odds-on favourites and today we take a look at whether they are bankers or blowouts.
Deciding whether to side with or against an odds-on favourite is not always straightforward, so we’ve attempted to rate each Festival ‘hotpot’ on a scale of one to ten. Of course, it’s possible to rate each odds-on favourite based on its chances of winning as implied by the bookmakers’ odds currently available. However, as Mark Twain once wrote, ‘it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races’ so, beyond simple mathematics, our ‘out-of-ten’ ratings inevitably involve an element of subjectivity; in other words, they’re just our opinion!
Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase – Shishkin (10/11)
Shiskin is, arguably, the most vulnerable of the four odds-on on favourites, insofar as he faces the stiffest opposition, in the form of Energumene and Allmankind, both of whom are Grade One winners over fences. Of course, Shishkin is a Grade One winning hurdler, having scraped home in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival after being hampered by a faller at the second-last flight, but has yet to hit the same heights over fences. That said, he is unbeaten over fences, having completed a hat-trick, with a minimum of fuss, in the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster in February.
Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – Monkfish (8/11)
The winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last year, Monkfish has made a seamless transition to fences this season, most recently travelling strongly and jumping well to easily beat his old rival Latest Exhibition by 11 lengths in the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown. Proven at three miles, at the highest level, he is hard to fault. Indeed, that fact is reflected by the bookmakers, who bet 8/1 bar, which brings in Royale Pagaille, who appears more likely to run in the National Hunt in any case, and 14/1 bar the pair.
Queen Mother Champion Chase – Chacun Pour Soi (8/11)
Dramatically withdrawn last year, when an abscess on his foot was discovered on the morning of the race, Chacun Pour Soir has tasted defeat just once in seven starts for Willie Mullins. He is unbeaten in three starts this season, including two at Grade One level, and it’s frankly hard to see him being beaten if he brings his ‘A’ game to the Festival. Mullins has yet to win the Champion Chase, but that equally also true of the Cheltenham Gold Cup two years ago and Chacun Pour Soi sets a high standard.
Marsh Novices’ Chase, Envoi Allen (4/5)
Unbeaten in all twelve starts, including the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2019 and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last year, Envoi Allen probably requires little introduction. His fledgling chasing career has, so far, has yielded three facile wins, including one at Grade One level – albeit at prohibitive odds of 2/11 – and, still only a 6-year-old, it’s difficult to predict where he might end up.
He’s already officially rated 164 and quoted at 10/1 second favourite for the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup, so it’s not inconceivable that might frighten most of the serious opposition away by the time March 18 rolls around.
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