The Gold Cup and, indeed, the entire Cheltenham Festival has a rich history of classic races, but within those contests, there have always been superb rivalries that capture the imagination. Think of Kauto Star and Denman going at it, or the legendary battle of Mill House and Arkle in the 1964 Gold Cup.
While the history of the 2020 Festival has yet to be written, there are some tantalising match-ups we are looking forward to this year. Some are old acquaintances renewed, whereas others are new rivalries that could set the tone for the 2020s.
Let’s dive in and have a look at the battles we can’t wait for next month:
Cheltenham Gold Cup: Al Boum Photo vs Native River
Yes, there are at least half a dozen names in the mix to win the Gold Cup, including the likes of Delta Work, Santini and Kemboy. But there is something to be said for the two previous champions lining up together. 2019 winner Al Boum Photo is the 4/1 Gold Cup favourite (Bet365), but Native River is taking on a bit of money and can be found at 10/1 with William Hill. If anything, we know that the latter’s style will ensure he runs a gutsy race, and really unsettle Al Boum Photo and the rest of the field. It looks like one of the most open Gold Cups in years, but the class of Al Boum Photo and the competitiveness of Native River ensures that both will be among the main protagonists.
Champion Chase: Altior vs Defi Du Seuil vs Chacun Pour Soi
The price fluctuations in the odds are all over the place for this one, so take a look at the best available betting offers for Cheltenham Festival 2020 from top bookies to ensure you get the best price. At the time of writing though, Altior is a squeak ahead at 2/1 with most major bookmakers, with Defi Du Seuil best-priced at 9/4 with Betfair (other have him as 7/4 favourite) and Chacun Pour Soi floating around 5/2. It’s a tough call, but the markets seem to be backing Altior not to be at his very best. The four-time festival winner could make his doubters look very foolish.
Mares’ Hurdle: Benie Des Dieux vs Honeysuckle
Connections of both Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle have been teasing entry into the Champion Hurdle (they would have to be supplemented), but the Mares’ Hurdle looks the most likely option. This could quietly become one of the best rivalries in horse racing, and while most favour Benie Des Dieux to come through as the even-money favourite, it would be ludicrous to discount the brilliant Honeysuckle (best-priced 15/8 at Betfair). This race on the 10th March could really kickstart the festival.
There is a real feeling of Super Thursday at Cheltenham 2020, with Faugheen appearing in the Marsh Novices’ Chase to start the day and Paisley Park ready to defend his Stayers’ Hurdle crown. However, the show-stealer could be the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase. We’ve seen plenty of Min down the years, and Frodon has a great story with jockey Bryony Frost. A Plus Tard is now the 3/1 market leader and he looks likely to swerve the Champion Chase, but the 4/1 for Min and 7/1 for Frodon from William Hill both look like tempting prices. The Ryanair Chase has quickly become one of the best national hunt races in its relatively short history, and this year’s looks like a classic.
Jason Coote is the founder of many websites and known gambler in Great Britain.