The start of the jumps season may be a way off yet, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t stop thinking about who’ll take the big prizes in 2023 at the Cheltenham Festival.
Of course, there is no guarantee where we’ll see our favourite equine stars next March, or whether they’ll be running over fences or hurdles, but we can but speculate.
As the season develops, we’ll update this page with the latest thoughts on some of the best races at Prestbury Park with our top Cheltenham Festival tips.
In the meantime, we’ve picked out the likely contenders for the four Championships races during the week.
It’s been confirmed that defending champ Honeysuckle will stay in training for one final season and she is set to go for a hat-trick of Champion Hurdle victories. Unbeaten thus far in her career, Henry De Bromhead’s mare could become one of the greats if rattling off the hat-trick next March. A cosy 3l victory over a rejuvenated former winner Epatante, Honeysuckle still looked in a league of her own.
There are a few dangers that could halt Kenny Alexander's superstar from all-time great status. Runaway Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Constitution Hill broke the track record at the 2022 Festival, where he stays over hurdles or embarks on a novice chasing campaign next season is still to be pondered.
Another potential challenger is Triumph Hurdle winner Vauban, connections of the star juvenile have combined for success in the Champion Hurdle before with the likes of Annie Power and Faugheen. Rich Richie hinted at a Flat campaign over the summer for the four-year-old before returning to The Festival next term.
A deluge of rain on day two of the Festival spoilt the field for the 2022 renewal and punters were shocked to see hot favourite Shishkin pulled up with over a mile left to go. The eight-year-old struggled on the softening ground and was tailed off after only 6 fences.
This season's edition of the race promising to be as good as ever, with a new leading British trained contender, 2022 Arkle winner Edwardstone. He was a cut above the novices last season and is set to follow in the footsteps of Put The Kettle On in winning the Arkle before going on to triumph in the Champion Chase. Energumene will return to defend his title and judging by the manner of his 2022, he should take all the beating.
Danny Mullins and Flooring Porter made it back-to-back victories in the Stayers' Hurdle in empathic style in 2022. Mullins deployed the the seven-year-old from the front as he did 12 months prior and once again he didn't see another rival. Trainer, Gavin Cromwell, hinted a light spring campaign before a couple of prep runs before next year's Festival for the dual winner.
It's likely the same opposition will face off again this year. Paisley Park will be 11-years-old before the off 2023 race but has shown no signs of regression as a gallant third in 2022. Champ also ran well in defeat but it is not certain what the future holds with the former RSA winner. Thyme Hill looks the most likely of the established stayers to topple the two-time champion unless one of the unexposed novices can set the division alight.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
A rematch of 2021 saw A Plus Tard get his revenge on stable mate Minella Indo as the 8-year-old sailed to a 15l victory under golden girl Rachael Blackmore. Trained to perfection by Henry De Bromhead, the cheveley park owned gelding scampered clear of the 11 strong field to make the blue riband race into a procession. Based on that evidence, A Plus Tard has to be a leading contender once again in 2023.
Minella Indo is set to reoppose his stable mate once again but it is hard to cause for a repeat of 2021. A younger propersition is the Dan Skelton trained Protektorat, who stayed on strongly for 3rd in 2022. Only a seven-year-old last year, there is still improvement open to John Hales' hope. Venetia Williams will be L'Homme Presse can convert his two grade one novice chase wins into Gold Cup glory.