Cheltenham Festival 2023: Five to back at this year's Festival
With the Cheltenham Festival now just around the corner, the Racing Post's Enda McElhinney has picked out his five best bets of the Festival.
Jonbon - Arkle Novices' Chase - Tuesday
Jonbon's Kingmaker win at Warwick recently was not to the pleasing of everyone but the Nicky Henderson-trained inmate eventually won with something to spare and he remains unbeaten as a chaser.
Getting into a real scrap in that Grade 2 will only serve him well.
The time clocked in a two-horse race was not bad and Jonbon still rates as a huge contender to win the Arkle on Tuesday.
The underwhelming nature of his Warwick win means he is no longer favourite, with that distinction now belonging to Irish Arkle scorer El Fabiolo.
They of course met last spring at Aintree over hurdles when Jonbon won.
Constitution Hill remains the only horse to have beaten Jonbon and he is a freak.
Jonbon can silence the doubters by taking out the Arkle, where his excellence in the jumping department should be a key asset.
Delta Work - Cross Country Chase - Wednesday
Delta Work was the pantomime villain last year when he got up late to deny Tiger Roll the fairytale Cheltenham farewell that so many craved.
He can turn that around this year and become a friend to punters by retaining his mantle.
Gordon Elliott's charge went on to finish third in the Grand National at Aintree and has been prepared this season with this race specifically in mind.
He was only third on Trials Day in January but that was a good effort in a handicap and, meeting some of the same rivals on much better terms at the Festival, he is going to be a tough nut to crack.
Luccia - Mares' Novices' Hurdle -Thursday
The Nicky Henderson-trained Luccia deserves her place amongst the Cheltenham Festival 'hotpots' list following her recent demolition job at Exeter that preserved her unbeaten record and make it 2-2 over hurdles.
She was facing geldings that afternoon but tanked through the race and cleared away to win very well despite making a mistake at the final flight.
The fact she made that error and still put a large gap between herself and the field suggests a big engine lurks and, while there has been some talk of going for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, this less daunting challenge is surely the right option and she will take a hell of a lot of beating against her own sex in the Cotswolds.
Bravemansgame - Gold Cup - Friday
With the Gold Cup on St Patrick's Day this year, Irish hopes of a fifth successive triumph will be sky high and, no wonder, with Willie Mullins holding the ace card in Galopin Des Champs.
He is a huge player for sure but his Irish Gold Cup win was not as smooth as perhaps some had predicted it might be.
King George winner Bravemansgame was very good on Boxing Day and rider Harry Cobden is adamant that his charge is improving as he matures.
He is a super jumper of a fence and can make gains on his rivals through the air.
Paul Nicholls has not won a Gold Cup since Kauto Star prevailed for the second time in 2009, at the time giving the Ditcheat supremo his third successive Blue Riband win.
Bravemansgame looks to be the strongest contender he has saddled in the intervening years and he is the value in the Gold Cup market
Absolute Notions - Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle - Friday
It may not be all and bad news for the Irish on St Patrick's Day with Gordon Elliott holding decent credentials in the race before the Gold Cup, via Absolute Notions.
He is gaining experience all the time and his second to Good Land in the 2m6f Dublin Racing Festival Grade 1 novice in early February was another step forward.
His breeding suggests stepping up in distance to three miles for the Albert Bartlett can be a positive and, with Good Land headed towards the Ballymore that makes for one less rival to worry about.
At healthy odds and with no outstanding candidate having emerged yet, Absolute Notions could be a dark horse with some interest in this out-and-out stamina test.