Cheltenham Festival 2023: Analysis of the hot favourites – Racing TV

Gavin Beech puts the six short-priced, ante-post favourites for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival under the microscope and provides his analysis on their credentials.
There are currently six horses chalked up at 6-4 or shorter in the ante-post markets for this year’s Cheltenham Festival, with Constitution Hill, who is a best-priced 4-11 for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, the shortest priced out of the six.
But will they all deliver? Some of them look set to be extremely tough to beat, but a couple of them could prove vulnerable based upon their recent performances.
From Facile Vega to Energumene, below are my thoughts on their credentials at this stage of the season.
Race: Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Tuesday).
General odds: 5-6.
Favourites have a mixed record in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle but Facile Vega, who is held in extremely high regard by Willie Mullins, looks set to be one of the key horses in the battle between punters and bookmakers at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.

Last year’s impressive Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner is still to taste defeat in his career (he has been sent off favourite on each of his six starts) and he’s already a Grade One winner over hurdles having seen off stablemate Il Etait Temps in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.
However, he didn’t hit the heights many were expecting in that contest and his jumping at the business end of the race left a bit to be desired. He’ll need to do better in the Supreme.
Race: Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase (Tuesday).
General odds: 11-8.
Four of the top five horses in ante-post Sporting Life Arkle Chase betting lists are trained by Willie Mullins, but none of his novice chasers have so far dazzled in the manner that Jonbon has since he switched to fences.
A Grade One winner over hurdles, despite being blown away by stablemate Constitution Hill in last season’s Supreme, and as a full brother to the top-class Douvan, Jonbon was always expected to improve when sent over the larger obstacles.
Jonbon bounded up the Sandown hill to thrash his rivals in the Grade One Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (posting a career-best effort on ratings) when last seen, and it’s going to take something very special from one of the Mullins brigade to lower his colours in March.
Jonbon’s detractors will point to the fact that he’s been beating up inferior opposition but Boothill, a remote runner-up at Sandown, came out and won the Grade Two Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas to give Jonbon’s form a nice boost.
Not only does Jonbon cruise through his races on the bridle, he looks a complete natural over fences and no potential rival currently looks better equipped to negotiate the Cheltenham fences in the Arkle than Nicky Henderson's inmate.
Race: Unibet Champion Hurdle (Tuesday).
General odds: 4-11.
They say that you should never be afraid of one horse, but when that horse is Constitution Hill, then you most definitely should be!
The 2023 Cheltenham Festival banker for many, Nicky Henderson’s superstar looks set to go off the shortest-priced Champion Hurdle favourite this century, and with good reason.
Unbeaten in five starts, he was the star of last season’s Cheltenham Festival thanks to a stunning 22-length success in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and nothing has been able to get near him in two Grade Ones this season.
Even if Honeysuckle produces her best, in receipt of 7lb, she will still surely struggle to get near this machine.
Constitution Hill can sometimes treat his hurdles with disdain, but there really are very few negatives to his profile and he’s well on the way to becoming the best horse many of us have ever seen.
Race: National Hunt Chase (Tuesday).
General odds: 6-4.
It took Gaillard Du Mesnil seven goes before he finally got off the mark over fences, but he’s already raced in Grade One company on four occasions over the larger obstacles and he could hardly have been more impressive in winning the Neville Hotels Novice Chase.
Top-class novices like Monkfish, Delta Work and Fury Road have won that Leopardstown contest in recent years, and Gaillard Du Mesnil would surely be able to hold his own in one of the Cheltenham Festival Grade One novice chases.
Given his trainer, Willie Mullins, won the race with the similarly classy Stattler 12 months ago, the fact that he’s been targeted at the Grade Two National Hunt Chase from some way out speaks volumes.
Stamina is yet to be proven but that will be the case for all contenders in the 3m6f contest. That aside, he’s a strong traveller and sound jumper who is likely to be the highest-rated runner in the field, so it’s hard to find many negatives to his prospects.
Race: Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Wednesday).
General odds: 8-11.
The reigning champion is certainly the one they all have to beat again in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase after his impressive winning return to action in the Bar One Racing Hilly Way Chase at Cork in December. Energumene’s task 12 months ago was made much easier by the below-par effort from Shishkin, but that shouldn’t detract from what was ultimately a top-class performance under a confident hold-up ride from Paul Townend.
He faces a couple of new rivals this time around in Edwardstone, and stablemate Blue Lord, the first and third from last year’s Sporting Life Arkle Chase, so the 2023 Champion Chase has a different feel to it.
Neither of those challengers should be underestimated, but there can be no doubt that the ‘been there and done it’ contender deserves his place at the top of the market.
Race: JCB Triumph Hurdle (Friday).
General odds: 11-8.
Willie Mullins, Rich Ricci and Paul Townend combined to win the JCB Triumph Hurdle with short-priced favourite Vauban in 2022 and the trio appear to have the race at their mercy once again.
Lossiemouth has shown a sparkling turn of foot to win two graded contests since joining Mullins from France, including the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, which is normally a strong pointer towards the pick of the Irish juvenile hurdlers.
The strong-travelling grey filly has looked particularly speedy so far, but if she is going to win a strongly-run JCB Triumph Hurdle, she will need to show that she stays well, too, and there may be stronger stayers in the line-up.
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