How To Take Advantage of Ground Conditions at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival
With about five weeks to go before the 2021 Cheltenham Festival gets underway, it is hard to imagine anything other than testing ground for the best four days of national hunt racing in the world.
Several weeks of persistent rain resulted in the abandonment of Trials Day at Prestbury Park recently. And while the prospect of decent racing ground seems a fair way off, Cheltenham has such a good drainage system that going with the word good in it could yet prove the case come Tuesday 16th March.
Ground conditions over the four days will determine the outcome of many of the races. So, keeping a close eye on the weather forecast in the run-up to the festival could provide a significant edge in the quest for winners.
Of the five championship races, some contenders will be at their best with plenty of cut in the ground, while connections of others will be hoping for good or good to soft ground when their runners head to post. The outcome of the first championship contest, the Unibet Champion Hurdle, could well be decided by the state of the going on day one. The following is a guide as to which contenders may benefit the most come start time.
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Unibet Champion Hurdle
ABACADABRAS – The seven-year-old has been racing mainly on soft or heavy ground, as when finishing a head second to Shishkin in last year’s Supreme and when winning the Morgiana back in November. Trainer Gordon Elliott is adamant the gelding is at his best on decent going. If GOOD or GOOD – SOFT ground prevails in March would have a leading chance.
BUZZ – this 96-rated Flat performer has run his two best races over hurdles, both at Ascot, on SOFT and HEAVY GROUND. Currently a 40/1 chance for the hurdling crown, those odds could prove very generous should conditions remain testing.
HONEYSUCKLE – Adaptable ground-wise but especially when ground is SOFT or HEAVY. Stays further than two miles so will benefit more than most under those conditions, especially following her runaway victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
NOT SO SLEEPY – The gelding’s two most impressive victories over hurdles both came on HEAVY ground. Current odds of 50/1 would look very big should the championship contest take place with similar going.
SHARJAH – Has won on ground ranging from good to heavy. But the eight-year-old has so much pace that his speed is more effective when racing on GOOD or GOOD – SOFT ground. Runner-up last year, Willie Mullins’ charge could reverse placings with Epatante should the ground ride better.
SILVER STREAK – Has already claimed the scalp of reigning champion Epatante with a comprehensive victory in Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle on GOOD – SOFT ground. All eight of the grey’s wins over hurdles have come with the word GOOD in the going description. Similar conditions would make Evan Williams’ charge the biggest danger to the two mares.