WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR IN THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL
The Festival is just a few days away, and the excitement is nearing fever pitch. The game will not be cleared in time to make the stands but for an event that usually draws a crowd of about 60,000 a day, expect the fireworks to still be cracking from afar. Every year comes with its thrills and big days, and this year is no different as some tasty matchups and races are just begging to be in the spotlight. A look at some of these big shots could make a total novice place a bet on Cheltenham 2021, with every run promising an adrenaline rush and entertainment to the finish. Willie Mullins is the trainer with the killer lineup this year per the pundits, but there are also some highly anticipated storylines to follow, including an elusive win for Paul Nicholls.
**SHISHKIN VS. ENERGUMENE**
Nicky Henderson has one of the hands-down favorites of the Festival this year, with Shishkin poised to follow on the footsteps of Sprinter Sacre and Altior in becoming one of the new stars in British chasing. Henderson has a way of trading the path of his horses to the Festival, and Shishkin’s has been no different. If recent performances at Doncaster and Kempton are any indication to go by, then the seven-year+old is ready to storm the first day of the Cheltenham festival. However, it will not be a good old walk in the park, as another poised star stands in the way. Irish trainer Willie Mullins is said to have the most potent lineup on this year’s event, and his answer to Shishkin is Energumene. Having made to jump to Grade 1 with relative ease, Energumene has what it takes to challenge Nicky Henderson’s prized rising star to an Arkle win. Best believe Allmankind will play a gelling time on the outcome as well.
**THE BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLE**
This race will be star-studded this year and there will be no shortage of gripping action from start to finish. Coming in at 11-4, Gaillard de Mesnil is looking to lay claim to this division with a win here, but another Irish horse may pack a stronger punch and be arguably the top hope for Irish horses in the contest, as Bob Olinger is rated just as highly. The real story, however, is that Paul Nicholls for all his exploits in the Cheltenham Festival, is still to win the Ballymore Novices’ hurdle. All of that could change with his selection for the elusive race this year, as Bravemansgame is looking every bit the part of a winner. Bob Olinger looks the crispier jumper amongst the three, but never underestimate a Paul Nicholls horse, and there is a reason why Gaillard de Mesnil is considered just as dangerous.