The Cheltenham Festival is essentially the National Hunt version of the Olympics and features some of the sport’s most illustrious names. We’ve picked out five horses who are certainly worth watching at this year’s meeting.

Horse: Honeysuckle Race: Champion Hurdle (Tuesday, March 16) Odds: 9/4

Trained by Henry De Bromhead, Honeysuckle is unbeaten in 10 starts under Rules and along with her rider Rachael Blackmore has lit up the sport in recent years.

The seven-year-old was bought for €110,000 and can take her earnings over the £500,000 mark with victory in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday.

Her first Grade One success came at Fairyhouse in April 2019 and she has gone to achieve four more top-level victories. That included victory in the 2020 running of the G1 Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in which she defeated Benie Des Dieux in a thrilling finish

Honeysuckle was looked her usual brilliant self in two runs this year, backing up a third win in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse with a smooth 10-length win in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Her task will not be easy in the Champion Hurdle against defending champion Epatante and the progressive Goshen. However, she looks the one to beat on present form.

Horse: Bravemansgame Race: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Wednesday, March 17) Odds: 3/1

Bought for £370,000 purchase, Bravemansgame has turned a corner for Somerset maestro Paul Nicholls this term.

The six-year-old finished a good second to subsequent Betfair Hurdle scorer Soaring Glory on his hurdling debut at Chepstow in October and has won his three subsequent starts. That latest victory was particularly impressive as he slammed his rivals to record a first Grade One success in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

The Brave Mansonnien gelding travelled smartly that day and put the race to bed in emphatic fashion, leaving his trainer to draw comparisons with his former Gold Cup winner Denman.

Bravemansgame is now a general 3/1 chance for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and is rated by Nicholls as his best chance of a winner at this year’s meeting. His rivals include G1 scorers Bob Olinger and Gaillard Du Mesnil, both of whom are trained in Ireland. However, this still looks a good opportunity for Bravemansgame to register a second Grade One win.

Horse: Envoi Allen Race: Marsh Novices’ Chase (Thursday, March 18) Odds: 8/11

Quite simply, he could be racing’s new superstar. Bought for a whopping £400,000 by connections, he looked awesome in all 11 of hist starts under Rules.

A winner of four bumpers, including the Champion Bumper at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, he also made it 4-4 over hurdles with his landmark victory coming in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last term.

However, Envoi Allen was always bought to be a chaser and has looked imperious in three starts over fences this term. A Grade One winner at Fairyhouse and he cruised to success at Punchestown on his latest outing.

A warm order for the Marsh Novices’ Chase, this will be his first start for new trainer Henry De Bromhead. However, that should prove no issue and he can let his class do the talking.

Horse: Saint Calvados Race: Ryanair Chase (Thursday, March 18) Odds: 8/1

An interesting runner for Harry Whittington. Saint Calvados was second in last year’s Ryanair Chase, beaten a neck by Min in the G1 contest.

The eight-year-old may well have won that event in another couple of strides and connections were left ruing the near-miss.

Whittington decided to try his stable star over three miles in two starts this term and he ran with credit at Kempton on Boxing Day when fourth to Frodon in the King George VI Chase.

However, things failed to go to plan when he unseated-rider in the Cotswold Chase at Sandown last time out, leaving connections to ponder whether to drop back in trip or stay at three miles and head for the Gold Cup.

Given his form round Cheltenham and his effort in the race last year, the Ryanair Chase is now the target and it is not hard to see him running a massive race in the contest a year on from his neck defeat. He looks overpriced at 8/1 and makes plenty of appeal.

Horse: Champ Race: Cheltenham Gold Cup (Friday, March 19) Odds: 5/1

This year’s Gold Cup promises to be a fantastic spectacle with the Willie Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo bidding to make history as a three-time winner of Jump Racing’s Blue Riband event. However, he will have his work cut out up against the progressive Champ for Nicky Henderson.

Named by owner JP McManus after 20-time British champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, Champ only cost €40,000, but is related to three-time Gold Cup hero Best Mate.

Smart over hurdles, he won two G1s over timber including the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury. However, he was always destined to be a chaser and has looked top-class for connections.

A winner of two of his first three starts over the larger obstacles, the nine-year-old produced one of the most iconic moments in Cheltenham Festival when storming up the Cheltenham hill to win last year’s RSA Chase from a seemingly hopeless position.

Having undergone wind surgery, he returned to action with an excellent second over two miles at Newbury last month. That trip was clearly on the short side for him and he looks of massive interest in the feature event of the meeting.

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