Thousands of punters will be back in the concourses of Prestbury Park in just a couple of months’ time as the 2022 renewal of the Cheltenham Festival rapidly rolls around.
It will be great to see the stands packed once again, with Cheltenham racecourse and the onsite bookmakers benefitting financially after an extremely tough two years or so.
Of course, the bettors will be hoping to mark their return to the Festival for the first time since 2020 by giving the bookies a good bashing and often backing the favourites in the odds on horse racing is a good way to go. There are no certainties at a meeting like Cheltenham, as Envoi Allen and Chacun Pour Soi proved last year, but there are definitely a few favourites that look worth having a punt on at the 2022 renewal.
So, with that in mind, read on as we assess some of the top market leaders’ chances of glory…
Honeysuckle – Champion Hurdle
Where better to start than with Day One’s feature race, the Champion Hurdle. Henry de Bromhead’s Honeysuckle’s unbeaten record over hurdles looks less and less likely to end with each and every race. The eight-year-old won the opening championship race by a commanding six-and-a-half lengths clear of Sharjah last year, and while Willie Mullin’s Appreciate It looks capable of making things a bit more competitive this year, we’re unsure if he really has the experience or proved himself at this level enough yet to really spring a surprise on Honeysuckle — who extended her record to 13 successive wins with an eight-length victory in the top-grade Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November.
Bob Olinger – Turners Novices’ Chase
One of the best novices out there at the minute, Bob Olinger looks like another nailed on victory for the trusty trainer/jockey duo of Rachael Blackmore and De Bromhead. Winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by over seven lengths last year, the seven-year-old extended his winning run to five with a victory in a Grade 3 Novice Chase at Punchestown earlier this month, his second victory of the season from as many races. The Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse is gaining some traction in the ante-post market after a 100% strike rate from three races this season, including a 10-length victory in the Paddy Power Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but we think Bob Olinger will be too much for the challenger.
Allaho – Ryanair Chase
Allaho breezed to glory in last year’s Ryanair Chase, winning the two-mile, four-and-a-half-furlong race by a comfortable 12 lengths clear of Fakir D’oudairies as he benefitted from a real lack of competition in the Grade 1 contest. Unfortunately, Day Three’s championship race looks set to be another uncompetitive one again this year, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Saint Calvados, who hasn’t won any of his last six races dating back to October 2019, the eight-year-old’s closest rival at 10/1. Winner on his season reappearance in the Grade 1 Punchestown Chase last month, expect Allaho to storm home by a considerable distance again this year.