Cheltenham Festival Tips: To back or to lay the favourites?

Cheltenham Festival
Can Shishkin justify his odds on price?

The Cheltenham Festival is a week full of drama, history makers and on occasions, upsets. So it begs the question, which favourites are unbeatable and which ones may have a few questions to answer? Nathan Joyes digs a little deeper...

"He's also Harry Derham's best bet of the Festival, where he's had a £250 charity bet on Mullins' horse, courtesy of Betfair."

Lay: Shishkin

Tuesday, 13:55 Arkle Novices' Chase

Abacadabras Shishkin Supreme 2020.jpg

It seems a little outrageous to lay a horse which has won its last six races, and Shiskin may well make that seven. He's a class horse, and the way in which he won the Supreme last year when fighting back to chin Abracadabras was one of the highlights of the Festival.

However, not all the short priced favourites are a certainty and if he is to win, he will have to beat Willie Mullins' Energumene, who was so impressive at the Dublin Festival last month.

He's also Harry Derham's best bet of the Festival, where he's had a £250 charity bet on Mullins' horse, courtesy of Betfair. Read Paul Nicholls' Cheltenham Preview here.

Allmankind may also pose a threat if the race he is allowed to gallop out front on his own, but it's worth a reminder that a five-year-old hasn't won the Arkle since 2006.

The real challenger comes from the Mullins yard, where his horse should perhaps be closer to Nicky Henderson's Shishkin in the market.

If you can't split the top two in the market, you can back Energumene to win without Shiskin at 4/6.

Back: Monkfish

Wednesday, 13:55 Brown Advisory Novices' Chase

WIllie Mullins 2 1280.jpg

Willie Mullins' star destroyed his rivals at the Dublin Festival by 11 lengths last month, although let's be honest, this could have at least been double. Having won his last six races, remaining unbeaten over fences, it's no mystery as to why he's odds on to win the Brown Advisory Chase.

There are no concerns with the venue either, as Monkfish scooped the Albert Bartlett last year and he's looks better than ever this time round, winning all three races this season.

His closest rival in the market is stablemate Royale Pagaille, who cantered clear in testing conditions at Haydock when last seen. However, he's also entered in the National Hunt, in which he is favourite. Mullins is likely to head both markets, and it's almost certain Monkfish will tackle the Brown Advisory alone.

Monkfish will more than likely going to be in many doubles and trebles across the week, and I can't possibly put you off.

Back: Chacun Pour Soi

Wednesday, 15:05 Champion Chase

Chacun Pour Soi.jpg

Mullins' superstar is almost impossible to oppose, right? He looks a different class to the rest of the field and is one of, if not, the banker of the Festival.

Politologue won last year's renewal, as well as this season's Tingle Creek, but both races were rather weak all things considered, and Chacun Pour Soi is streets ahead in ability.

It would be an incredible story for Nicky Henderson's Altior to be victorious at the Festival once again, but he doesn't look the horse he once was. A horse over the age of ten hasn't won this race since 1978, so it's best to look elsewhere.

The Skelton's Nube Negra has been in fantastic form, but the handicapper has raised him 13lb for his last victory, making the Champion Chase even more difficult.

There's hardly a single fault with Chacun Pour Soi, who looks certain to claim the Champion Chase.

Lay: Allaho

Thursday, 14:30 Ryanair Chase

Yet another race where Willie Mullins heads the market with Allaho, who finished third in last year's RSA, behind Minella Indo and Champ.

Despite a promising performance at Cheltenham last year, and winning last time out at Thurles over 2m4f, there's plenty of exciting talent in this year's field who can prevent Allaho once again at the Festival.

If you're one for stats, it's worth noting that thirteen out of the last 16 winners in the Ryanair have previously won at Cheltenham at least once - something Allaho has yet to achieve.

Imperial Aura and Saint Calvados both meet that criteria, and although both unseated their respected riders last time out, are expected to be in the mix, according to the market.

Speaking of the market, Allaho's main rival is stablemate companion, Min, won this race last year. He defeated Saint Calvados by a neck, with A Plus Tard back in third and Gold Cup hopeful Frodon a distant fourth.

Another Mullins horse, Melon, is a regular at the Festival is also primed and ready for the Ryanair. Despite never tasting success at Cheltenham, the nine-year-old has also never been out of the places, with his form reading 3-2-2-2.

With plenty of previous course winners in the line-up, Mullins has a strong hand and he may well win this race once more. But there's more question marks over Allaho than his other two hopefuls, and Allaho may struggle to finish in the top three, let alone win.

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