With the Cheltenham Festival emerging on the horizon, trainers and jockeys alike are fighting a battle against time in order to get their horses up to scratch for one of the biggest days on the horse racing calendar. You could argue that with spectators back in attendance for the first time in two years, there’s that added pressure to make the Festival that bit more of a spectacle this time around, with last year taking place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As fans make their way back to the racetrack, the unpredictability of the big races will inevitably take its toll, regardless of how well trainers have prepared, with the Cheltenham 2021 odds capable of being blown out of the water at any given moment. It’s always best to have a strategy ahead of the Festival, but sometimes things don’t go to plan. The Dublin Racing Festival certainly put a spanner in the works for several horses, read on, as we go through a few that have suffered setbacks ahead of the big week in mid-March.
Known as something of a stalwart at the Cheltenham Festival, Frodon and Bryony Frost are a duo that have won plenty on the big stage before, most notably the 2019 Ryanair Chase and the 2020 King George VI Chase, as well as Grade 1 success at Down Royal earlier this season.
However, an underwhelming performance at Leopardstown left a lot to be desired, and failing to retain the King George after losing to 28/1 outsider Tornado Flyer was certainly a shock that would have frustrated trainer Paul Nichols. It has been confirmed by his connection thatFrodon will bypass Cheltenham next month, with the Grand National Festival at Aintree still a possibility in April
While Willie Mullins stole the majority of the spoils in Dublin, dominating the Festival with six wins from eight Grade 1 races, he’ll be disappointed Saint Sam was unable to get closer to stablemate Blue Lord in the Irish Arkle Novice Chase, the latter of which really impressed to continue Mullins hot streak.
There is still time between now and the Trophy Novices’ Chase, but having won at Fairyhouse back in January, Saint Sam would have wanted another victory under his belt before heading to Cheltenham.But he has given himself a lot to do ahead of a rematch with Blue Lord, as well as a plethora of other close contenders including Busselton and Gordon Elliot’s Riviere D’etel.
The current Gold Cup champion, the spotlight will be on the Henry de Bromhead-trained Minella Indo to replicate the success of last year as fans pack into Prestbury Park for this year’s race. It was a memorable Festival for both De Bromhead and Rachel Blackmore in the saddle, who essentially left Cheltenham with a clean sweep of accolades. It will be tougher this time around though, with the nine-year-old forced to settle for a podium place in Dublin when Gordon Elliot’s Conflated snatched the Irish Gold Cup as an 18/1 outsider, but given his reputation at Cheltenham, it could be thatMinella Indo relies on the thrill of the crowd to get over the line come March.