The 2020 Cheltenham Festival begins with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle staged over about two miles with the race usually attracting a quality entry. Both Douvan and Altior have won this contest in previous seasons ahead of embarking on chasing careers. Irish raiders have claimed victory in the past two seasons and there will be another strong representation from the Emerald Isle for this year’s renewal.
Asterion Forlonge will spearhead the challenge from the powerful Willie Mullins stable and he impressed when winning by nearly ten lengths at the recent Dublin Festival. He won by a similar distance when scoring at Naas in January and is unbeaten in three races for the illustrious Irish trainer. A current price of 3/1 is reasonable.
Another strong challenger from Ireland will be Abacadabras from the Gordon Elliott yard and he has been beaten only by the useful Envoi Allen in his four starts over hurdles. All three of his successes to date over the smaller obstacles have been registered by at least three lengths. His victory against the highly-regarded Latest Exhibition during November was particularly noteworthy.
Among the competitors from England, Shishkin is likely to start favourite and is well-fancied at about 5/2. A winner of all three completed starts within National Hunt rules, he was an early faller in his debut event over obstacles but then won his next two contests by more than ten lengths. A doubt remains on his ability to handle the Cheltenham undulations as he has only featured on flat tracks to date for trainer Nicky Henderson.
Edwardstone is likely to be another English representative, and he had won both starts this season until headed on the line in a contest at Haydock during January. He has been given time to recover from a gruelling event staged in heavy ground last month.
Trainer Colin Tizzard will be confident about the chances of Fiddlerontheroof who has easily won his last two races at Sandown and seems to have improved with racing this term. Rain is likely to improve his chances while Chantry House may also be a contender.
Unbeaten in three races for Nicky Henderson, he was a course and distance winner back in December in good to soft conditions and has since won impressively at Newbury where he displayed much speed in the closing stages.
There is also the possibility of Envoi Allen running in this race if the ground softens significantly. He is unbeaten in all seven contests for trainer Gordon Elliott but none in a spectacular manner, yet he is experienced at winning races.