The 2021 Cheltenham Festival is upon us and with it the inaugural running of the Tote Ten to Follow Festival mini game. As usual, you will be tasked with picking your stable of ten horses to score as many points as possible throughout Festival week.
There look to be a number of bankers but with points awarded based on the returns to a £1 each-way Tote bet, it is worth looking further afield than the short-priced favourites when picking your stable. We’ve pulled together our list of dark horses which may return a healthy win dividend and a bumper points haul to boot.
The Tote Ten to Follow Cheltenham Mini Game is open now! Start building your stables and edit them as many times as you want up until 10pm March 15th.
Barbados Buck’s appears the perfect staying type for the Albert Bartlett, which often supplies some big-priced winners, with the last three returning Tote dividends of £4.80, £129.50 and £45.30.
He’s looked impressive on his three wins over hurdles, especially when finishing strongly to defy a 10lb penalty on his last outing. Although this is a step up in class, he gives the impression there is a lot more to come than he has shown so far.
Paul Nicholls can be more than hopeful that this Big Buck’s relation, who races in the same silks, can hand him his first win in the race.
One of Joseph O’Brien’s stable stars, now into his second season as a chaser despite only being a six-year-old. His age means he has still most likely got some improvement in him compared to older Ryanair market rivals. If anything, he boosted his credentials for the race with a solid display behind the mighty Chacun Pour Soi at the Dublin Racing Festival, whereas others disappointed.
Cheltenham form is vital when picking your stable and Fakir brings just that, having won at the January meeting in 2018, finished fourth as a four-year-old in the Supreme and second in the Arkle last year. The Ryanair appears one of the most open of the bonus races, with no horse really staking its claim. Fakir D’oudairies lesser exposed profile means he’s an outsider who should be on your team sheet to collect some valuable bonus points.
Phillips Hobbs’ talented 6-year-old can be a bit hit and miss, yet the way he won the Grade 1 Scilly Isles having been back of the field and not travelling fluently provides confidence in his ability to win without being at his best. He does face the daunting task of taking on either Envoi Allen (Marsh) or Monkfish (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase), however, the prices will reflect this, and he will have the masterful Richard Johnson on board to steer him round.
He jumps and finishes his races well and if he decides to travel at Cheltenham, he has the potential to be a real danger to the protagonists. Unpredictable but boasting four wins from six races over obstacles, a little improvement means he could be something of a forgotten horse.
It remains to be seen who will be training this one come Cheltenham, but this ten-year-old has enjoyed a profitable season, having won four of his eight outings and coming second on a further three. He has been mixing it with Grade 1 chase company for the majority of the season and has notably finished ahead of the likes of Delta Work, Presenting Percy, Minella Indo and Melon.
Not only does he bring 3m Grade 1 form into the Stayers’ Hurdle but an impressive Cheltenham record as well. He's finished first and second on his three starts at the Festival. Even up against tough opposition, you can be sure The Storyteller will run his race and might just be underappreciated in the pool.
Blue Lord is yet another of Willie Mullins battalion heading to the Festival who looks to have a very strong chance in either the Ballymore or, hopefully, the County Hurdle to score some bonus race points at a big price.
A French import who won his maiden hurdle only a week after joining Mullins’ yard in November, he has since bumped into some very useful types in Bob Olinger, Appreciate It and Ballyadam. The latter two being at the Dublin Racing Festival when he stayed on for a very nice third, in doing so he gave the impression he would be more suited to 2m5f and some better spring ground.
He will have learnt a lot from his two defeats since Christmas and you can be sure with a bit more time to have settled into his new stable and training regime, Mullins will have him primed come the Festival. He is likely to be Closutton’s second-string in whichever target he appears, meaning the value is likely to still be there on the day. With that in mind, potential double figure dividends for the Ballymore and County Hurdle are on the cards and it look as though he is slipping under the radar.