If, as someone once said, a week is a long time in politics, then five months in National Hunt racing must be close to a lifetime. So much can change between now and the Cheltenham Festival, the whole of the build-up to four fantastic days in March ahead of us, but that doesn't mean there aren't positions to take here and now. Here are three:
Back Abacadabras for the Champion Hurdle
Honeysuckle deserves to be a short price to win the Champion Hurdle for a second time, but that doesn't mean there isn't an overpriced horse against her. That horse looks to be Abacadabras.
It's fair to say that Abacadabras has a rather patchy record and perhaps hasn't won as many races as he should have done, but when he's on song he looks very good. He won twice at Grade 1 level in 2020/21, being better than the bare result when landing the Aintree Hurdle from Buzz. He didn't get the chance to show what he could do in the Champion Hurdle, a rare jumping lapse ending his race at the third.
The previous Festival, Abacadabras had shown just how effective he is on the track, giving Shishkin a race in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. A strong traveller with a good turn of foot, though one that doesn't want to be in front too soon, Abacadabras has all the attributes to run well in a Champion Hurdle.
It's true that he's come up short against Honeysuckle in the past, but between the pair of them in the ante-post market there are plenty who seem less than plausible candidates to run in the race. Abacadabras is available at 26.025/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook.
Back Allaho for the Cheltenham Gold Cup
Allaho has made three appearances at the Festival and has got better each time. He was third to Minella Indo in the Albert Bartlett in 2019, third to Champ and Minella Indo in the final running of the RSA Chase in 2020, then won the Ryanair Chase in breath-taking fashion in 2021.
Allaho was ridden from the front in the RSA and forced a strong gallop over the shorter trip in the Ryanair, but he is a smooth traveller and wouldn't need to be ridden quite so forcefully were he to contest the Gold Cup.
Allaho has run some good races elsewhere, but Cheltenham seems to bring out the very best in him. After the Ryanair, he went to Punchestown, but found the drop to two miles and the opposition of Chacun Pour Soi too much for him. He still ran a good race in defeat, his form on his last two starts as good as any of those he'd face in the Gold Cup.
There is, obviously, the chance that Allaho would be aimed at the Ryanair again, but with his Christmas options at three miles, a win then might shift the focus more firmly in the direction of the ultimate prize. He's currently 26.025/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook.
Back Bob Olinger for the Arkle Chase
Without question the most exciting prospect over jumps this winter. Bob Olinger is just six starts into his career, but has already shown himself a high-class novice over hurdles. He's the most gorgeous-looking horse and almost guaranteed to make a better chaser than hurdler, the sky very much the limit. Were it legal, I might even wish to marry him.
So far, Bob Olinger has won a point, a bumper and three of his four starts over hurdles. His final start came in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at last season's Festival, where he swept away some smart opposition, quickening away to score by seven and a half lengths. His only defeat came on his hurdling debut, when the previous season's Champion Bumper winner Ferny Hollow beat him a length. His record is very hard to fault.
The options for the coming campaign are plentiful too. It's possible he could stay over hurdles and be aimed at the Champion Hurdle, but a switch to fences surely makes more appeal. He could go for any of the novice events at Cheltenham, but he shows such speed over hurdles that a drop in trip for the Arkle, rather than a step up to three miles seems a good route to take.
There are plenty of other good novice hurdlers from last season at the head of the Arkle market, Appreciate It, My Drogo and Ferny Hollow (who was sidelined after beating Bob Olinger), but none of them has quite such an exciting look to them as Bob Olinger does. He's 9.08/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook.