Five Saturday races that could provide massive Cheltenham Festival insight | Horse Racing News

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

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The Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase (1.20) provided two Cheltenham Festival winners in 2020 with Simply The Betts (right) and Imperial Aura (left) going on to score that March

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

By Matt Butler

Cheltenham’s Trials day meeting is not just a fancy name but lives up to its billing. In the last decade, a total of 25 runners have tested their credentials at the famous course in late January before going on to win a Cheltenham Festival in March.

However, festival winners can come from anywhere and there are a couple of likely warm races that could offer key pointers for what to expect when the tapes drop at Prestbury Park in no more than two months’ time.

These are five key races to keep at the forefront of your mind on Saturday for Cheltenham Festival clues.


JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2), 2m1f

Why it matters

This Triumph Hurdle trial has supplied two winners at the festival in the last decade and both were fairly comfortable winners of this Grade 2.

Peace And Co did not ultimately progress to much outside of his juvenile hurdling season, but he proved his liking for the New course with a three-length success in 2015 before following up in the Triumph.

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

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Iceo was an easy winner at Kempton last month and runs at Cheltenham on Saturday

Iceo was an easy winner at Kempton last month and runs at Cheltenham on Saturday

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

Defi Du Seuil was even more convincing when winning by nine lengths in 2017 before winning the Triumph, and there is every chance a leading contender could emerge from this season’s eight runners.

The horses to watch

Iceo and Pied Piper are available at 14-1 for the Triumph and remain unbeaten over hurdles, while Interne De Sivola – a general 20-1 for the same race at the festival – boasts good course form courtesy of his win here last month.

Recent Cheltenham Festival winners

Peace And Co (2015, 1st), Defi Du Seuil (2017, 1st)


Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase, 2m4½f

Why it matters

The first of two handicap chases over 2m4½f on the card, this contest for novice chasers has chucked up six winners at the festival in the last decade including in 2020, when Simply The Betts and Imperial Aura finished first and second before subsequently winning the Plate and the novice handicap chase.

The novice handicap chase no longer exists at the festival, but several of the eight runners in this year’s race could end up following the Simply The Betts route to the Paddy Power Plate if putting in a good performance.

The horses to watch

Imperial Alcazar, a general 16-1 for the Plate, has yet to strike over fences but both efforts were respectable and he was sent off just 11-2 for the Pertemps Final last season, while Oscar Elite, who has also yet to win over fences, was second in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last season.

Recent Cheltenham Festival winners

Rajdhani Express (2013, 7th), Irish Cavalier (2015, 3rd), Un Temps Pour Tout (2016, 4th), Mister Whitaker (2018, 1st), Simply The Betts (2020, 1st), Imperial Aura (2020, 1st)


Watch Off The Fence On attheraces.com Lightning Novices’ Chase (Grade 2), 2m½f

Why it matters

It is not just races at Cheltenham you need to watch on Saturday as there is some strong action at Doncaster, including the Sky Bet Chase and the River Don Novices’ Hurdle.

However, if festival clues are going to emerge anywhere it could be in a select field of three for the Lightning Novices’ Chase.

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

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Will smart chaser Third Time Lucki be able to reinvigorate his Arkle claims at Doncaster?

Will smart chaser Third Time Lucki be able to reinvigorate his Arkle claims at Doncaster?

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

This race provided the 1-2 for the Arkle last season as Shishkin led home Eldorado Allen on Town Moor and then proceeded to do the same at Cheltenham. Lightning winners Vaniteux (2016) and Mister Fisher (2020) also went on to run respectably in the Grade 1 novice chases at the festival.

Willie Mullins has a strong handle on the top of the Arkle market with Blue Lord despite the news Ferny Hollow will miss the race, but one of Third Time Lucki (16-1 for Arkle), Do Your Job (100-1) and For Pleasure (40-1) could join Edwardstone at the top of the British team with a dominant win here.

This Grade 3 has a magnificent roll of honor including Honeysuckle and Shattered Love. Although both of those high-class mares won at the Cheltenham Festival the following season, Laurina and Limini are the two to make a more immediate impact after winning at Fairyhouse.

Lorraine O’Sullivan

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Allegory De Vassy: ante-post favorite for the Mares' Novices' Hurdle runs at Fairyhouse

Allegory De Vassy: ante-post favorite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle runs at Fairyhouse

Lorraine O’Sullivan

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