Who is creating the Cheltenham Ante-Post Buzz This Summer?

Cheltenham 2022 is around 200 days away, although it probably feels a bit longer given we are not yet at the traditional start of the jumps season. Of course, there is more to the summer than flat racing at Ascot and York. Plenty of national hunt action during the summer, probably much more than people realise, but a lot of the star names of jumps racing are tucked away in training yards preparing for the autumn.

As such, the ante-post markets for Cheltenham can feel a bit static over the summer months. You might get a bit of movement here and there, but there is rarely a huge shift in the markets. Indeed, most of those leading the way in the ante-post betting in the summer are the same names that appear as the winners in the results of the Cheltenham Festival races the previous March.

But it is fun to have a look, and even speculate on who might move the markets eventually. It’s certainly not an exact science either, as we are not privy to the thoughts of trainers and owners, nor to new unexposed youngsters, and fresh purchases from the sales. The market relies on snippets of information coming from training yards, and a few internet rumours too.

Monkfish expected to tilt for Gold Cup

So, where are we right now? The best place to start is with the Gold Cup. As you might expect, Minella Indo leads the way. That’s usually the case with the winner: 2020 winner Al Boum Photo, for instance, was the ante-post favourite for the 2021 Gold Cup last summer. But joining Minella Indo at the top of the markets at around 6/1 is Monkfish, and that’s where it gets interesting.

If you’ve read any racing article dealing with Monkfish in the last year, the phrase “Gold Cup horse” crops up all the time. Everyone expects Willie Mullins to aim Monkfish at Cheltenham’s biggest prize this year. The 7yo is a class act, winning three Grade 1s as a novice chaser last season. Although, there will be a little concern with the flat performance in Monkfish’s last outing, finishing second to Colreevy at Punchestown in April.

Perhaps the most interesting ante-post market is for the Champion Chase. 2021 winner, Put the Kettle On, is way back at 16/1, with most punters not expecting the mare to repeat the shock win. Shishkin, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi are leading the way. We were robbed of seeing Shishkin and Energumene go head to head in the 2021 Arkle (Energumene had a minor injury, missing the festival), but it’s hoped we get to see that mouth-watering contest. Add Chacun Pour Soi, who was odds-on for the Champion Chase before finishing a disappointing 3rd, into the mix, and we potentially have the race of the 2022 festival.

Honeysuckle is a big favourite for the Champion Hurdle

As for the Champion Hurdle, it’s all about the dream team of Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle. The pair are 12 from 12 in rules races, and you can also add a point to point win to that record for 13 wins. The Irish Champion Hurdle, Punchestown Champion Hurdle and Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham all went to Blackmore and her brilliant mare. Honeysuckle is somewhere around 2/1 currently, with Bob Olinger and Appreciate It at 8/1 and 10/1. But both the latter two have other options at Cheltenham 2022.