Winning at the Cheltenham Festival is difficult at the best of times – however – going back-to-back at the famed March meeting is only reserved for the elite few. 2023 will be no exception, and with every one of the 28 races on the agenda boasting incredibly deep fields, last year’s victors will need a near-perfect run if they’re to repeat their success.
With that in mind, read on as we take a look at the thoroughbreds with the best shot of securing two Cheltenham Festival triumphs on the trot.
Delta Work – Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
Arguably the biggest NAP on day two, trainer Gordon Elliott will be hoping his ten-year-old Delta Work can replicate his 2022 Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country Chase) victory. The gelding is a short-priced favourite in the horse racing betting odds to do so, with him garnering a price of 10/11 at the time of writing. While his form over course and distance reads well, his runs in the new year haven’t been anything to write home about.
The French horse finished third in a handicap chase at Cheltenham, before a disappointing sixth-placed result at Navan. Couple that with the fact that in the aforementioned race at Cheltenham, Delta Work was bested by upcoming Glenfarclas Chase foe Back On The Lash – and the three-mile and six-furlong affair isn’t as much of a forgone conclusion as most first thought.
With that being said, given Delta Work’s cross-country experience – his favourite’s tag is more than justified.
Energumene – Queen Mother Champion Chase
Reigning supreme in ten of his opening 12 races, one of which includes last year’s Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase – you would have been hard-pressed to find a National Hunt racing fan or pundit backing against the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene at the beginning of the year to go back-to-back in the feature race on day two. The nine-year-old’s performances in April and December of last year particularly turned heads, as he went on to win by eight-and-a-half and 15 lengths respectively.
However, some believe they may have finally seen a chink in Energumene’s armour – with the gelding finishing third behind outsider Editeur Du Gite and Edwardstone after a blunder at the last in a Cheltenham Festival Trial fixture in January.
While his odds were impacted in the betting lines as a result, Energumene remains the favourite in the Champion Chase at 6/4. However, if he is to become the eleventh horse to secure back-to-back Champion Chase’s, he will need to beat a very strong field that includes the likes of the aforementioned Editeur Du Gite and Edwardstone, along with Dublin Chase winner and stablemate Gentleman De Mee.
A Plus Tard – Gold Cup
When A Plus Tard and jockey Rachael Blackmore finished first past the post by 15 lengths last year from 2021 Gold Cup champion Minella Indo, fans and pundits alike were in awe of the acceleration and speed the French thoroughbred showed up the Cheltenham hill. Despite A Plus Tard’s and Blackmore’s exceptional performance in the 2022 renewal – the nine-year-old’s run last time out is clearly still front of mind with punters.
The gelding was pulled up in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, and when you compound that with the fact that he will have been out of action for more than 100 days by the time he lines up at the Festival – and you can see why he has dipped in the betting lines. Irish Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs is deservedly the favourite at 5/4 – however – at 7/1, don’t write off A Plus Tard just yet.
If he can show similar finishing speed to what he did in the meeting’s feature race last year, he could very well upset the applecart and secure his connections with the cool £351,000 in prizemoney awarded to the winner.