5 Early Bird Selections – Cheltenham Festival 2021 | Ante Post Tips


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Energumene (40/1) Arkle Chase (1pt win)

On Saturday 7th March, the first fleet of Willie Mullins juggernauts arrived at Cheltenham Racecourse. Back on home turf, Paul Townend stayed behind for his only ride and winner of the weekend, ENERGUMENE at Gowran Park.

Although it wasn’t the hottest maiden hurdle run in Ireland this season, the 6yo son of Denham Red easily dispatched of what was put in front of him and there was plenty to like about how he went through the race, clocking the best time on the card when winning by 19L.

An ex point to point winner for Tom Lacey, Energumene doesn’t look short of pace and proved his stamina in testing conditions. WP Mullins spoke about a plan to go chasing immediately afterwards and hinted this horse might be on the boat this time next year.

Obviously, there are some unknowns and some educated guessing with this selection. But at 40/1 for the 2021 Arkle, we know Energumene is going chasing and his trainer, who won four of the last six renewals is expecting plenty of improvement. I’m excited about this horse.

Bright Forecast

Bright Forecast (50/1) – RSA Chase 1pt win

Bright Forecast was my ante-post selection for the 2020 RSA Chase but sadly he never made it to the track due to a fibrillating heart issue. Guess what… he’s expected back next season and he’s double the price.

BRIGHT FORECAST (149 rated) was last seen when finishing a staying on third in the 2019 Ballymore Novice Hurdle. Ridden widest by Nico De Boinville the whole way, Ben Pauling’s 5yo jumped every single hurdle like a chaser, becoming briefly outpaced before coming home stronger than any.

Ballymore third was an extremely good effort in only Bright Forecast’s fourth start over timber. Built for fences, the son of Arcadio holds a massive engine if returning in similar health. Looks forgotten!

AioneAione (66/1) National Hunt Chase (1pt win)

With the exciting Monkfish likely to be aimed at the RSA Chase 2021, the Ricci’s may also be eyeing up the National Hunt Chase with 7yo AIONE, who looks tailor made for fences and three miles plus.

A point to point winner for Donnchadh Doyle back in May 2017, the well-built son of Coastal Path only made it to the track for WP Mullins last November. After five runs and three wins, Aione ends the season with a credible hurdles rating of 138. The obvious “whatever he achieved this season” cliché applies.

Patrick Mullins has ridden the National Hunt Chase winner twice and he might have his eyes on Aione, who ticks plenty of the right boxes for the same. Described as a big three miler, David Mullins gave Aione a decent talking up on the Champ.ie Cheltenham Preview Night (Dundalk) stating “He won’t be far away from Monkfish” and he certainly didn’t disgrace himself in a red-hot renewal of the Albert Bartlett.

Given his profile and the likelihood that none of the first seven in the market will actually line up, 66/1 looks on the generous side.

Dynamite Dollars

Dynamite Dollars (33/1) – Ryanair Chase (1pt win)

Dynamite Dollars won four of his first five starts over fences and was on route to becoming Britain’s top 2m novice chaser last season. Unfortunately, the Nicholls horse suffered a minor setback in training before the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, when priced at 7/1 for the Arkle Novice Chase.

Off the track for 378 days, the 7yo son of Bucks Boum returned with a huge run in The Game Spirit at Newbury. It was a gallant effort from the front and he looked like the winner everywhere bar the last furlong. It was a steadily run affair and he possibly lacked the same turn of foot as some of his rivals (Altior for one).

Encouragingly after such a long lay-off, DYNAMITE DOLLARS maintained his form at Cheltenham. He’d have arguably been closer to the winner in the Queen Mother but for a shuttering blunder three from home. Credit must be given for how he stuck to the task suggesting a step up in trip should suit.

The vets report after Cheltenham must also be mentioned as it was confirmed the Bucks Boum gelding lost a shoe, making the result even more impressive. With the likelihood of stable mate Politilogue returning to defend his Champion Chase crown next season, Nicholls could certainly look at longer trips for Dynamite Dollars.

Still lightly raced, I was attracted to him for the Ryanair Chase at 33/1.


McFabulous (20/1) – Stayers Hurdle (1pt win)

Held in very high regard after landing the G2 bumper at last year’s Aintree festival, MCFABULOUS must have been one of the biggest handicap certainties of the season when bolting up off 132 the day after the Cheltenham Festival. Always prominent, the further they went, the better he seemed to travel albeit against an inferior class of horse.

In the aftermath, Nicholls suggested he could angle the 6yo towards the Stayers Hurdle next season. In a weakened division, this progressive son of Milan looks mega interesting.

With big field experience under his belt, the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock in November could be a potential starting point off a mark of 145. Paisley Park was only rated 140 at the end of his novice hurdle campaign and won at Haydock off 147 (2018). Regardless of his early season targets, McFabulous looks like one horse that can go right to the very top next season.

I’ve already taken 20/1 for the Stayers Hurdle in March.

Ante Post Selections 31-03-2020

  • Energumene (40/1) Arkle Chase 2021 (1pt win)
  • Aione (66/1) National Hunt Chase 2021(1pt win)
  • Bright Forecast (50/1) – RSA Chase 2021 (1pt win)
  • Dynamite Dollars (33/1) – Ryanair Chase 2021 (1pt win)
  • McFabulous (20/1) – Stayers Hurdle 2021 (1pt win)

By Barry Doyle 31-03-2020