19 Feb 2019

3 Horses Facing Cheltenham Festival Choices

With a number of horses holding multiple entries in the build-up to this year's Cheltenham Festival, there are some major decisions to be made by the trainers and owners involved. 

Which high-profile horses are facing choices about which event suits them best ahead of the four-day National Hunt spectacular in March? Here, we take a look at three. 

Frodon 

Proven form at the course is a huge plus for any Festival hopeful, and few in training have a better record at Cheltenham than Paul Nicholls' seven-year-old Frodon. His partnership with female jockey Bryony Frost has caught public attention after they put together a string of solid races at the Cotswolds venue. 

Frodon has run over three miles on several occasions with mixed success, but doubters were silenced when he made all in customary bold jumping fashion to land the Cotswold Chase - the official trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

Nicholls was then quoted as saying he is very tempted to go and contest the big one, but the ante-post Festival betting suggests Frodon has a better chance if he runs in the Ryanair Chase again. This is a view shared by the expert bloggers at betconnect, a social betting network that allows bettors to follow the selections of pros in today's horse racing cards, who have tipped the bay gelding to put in a strong showing this time out. While he was fifth and last to finish in the race last year, he's rated a 7lb better horse and still has youth on his side. 

He remains unexposed at trips over three miles-plus and, with the Gold Cup picture looking fairly open, it's easy to see why connections may be keen to take their chance.


Min 

Connections of Irish raider Min must surely be keen to swerve meeting the unbeaten Altior at a third Cheltenham Festival. Whether it's been over hurdles or fences, Willie Mullins' charge has never got within seven lengths of the Nicky Henderson stable star. 

That leaves owners Rich and Susannah Ricci with a dilemma. Do they contest the Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles, or step Min back up in trip for the Ryanair? Since winning the John Durkan at Punchestown in early December, the eight-year-old has successfully defended his Dublin Chase crown around Leopardstown.

Min is thus a horse with Grade 1 win victories over both two and two-and-a-half miles. He's second-favourite behind Altior for the Champion Chase, but heads the betting for the Ryanair. It's a big decision for everyone involved.

Apple's Jade 

There's arguably no jumps horse in training in better form than Gordon Elliott's Gigginstown House Stud mare Apple's Jade this season. She is one tough and versatile cookie, who has recorded Grade 2 victories in hurdle races over in Ireland over three miles, two-and-a-half, and most recently when dropping back down in trip for the Irish Champion Hurdle. 

Apple's Jade has always been seen by her powerful owners as Mares' Hurdle material. She won that middle-distance contest at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago and was then a below-par third when found to be in season 12 months ago. 

In a campaign where the initial plan was to aim the much vaunted Samcro at the Champion Hurdle, he’s disappointed this season and connections must be tempted to switch the mare’s target. Trainer Elliott is certainly keen to contest the two-mile championship race on the opening day of the Festival. 

Bookmakers have reacted to this by pushing Apple's Jade out for the mares' race and shortening her for the Champion Hurdle. She also holds a Stayers' Hurdle entry, but at this stage, it looks the least likely engagement for her.