You can imagine my surprise when I hopped online to have a look at some of the potential Cheltenham Festival 2021 runners only to find that Paddy Power had already moved to Non Runner Money Back (also known as NRNB) on the betting markets.
It’s mid-January and the Festival is still eight weeks away. Given that we have no idea which horses will even get an entry into some of the races, it’s a bold move to shift from ante-post odds so early.
That said, it really is to the benefit of all of us who like a little flutter. Now we can have a bet and, if for some reason our horse doesn’t run, we get our money back.
To make it nice and simple, every race for the 2021 Festival has gone Non Runner Money Back with Paddy Power as of January 14th 2021. But let’s a closer look at some of the contenders for Day One.
Supreme Novices Hurdle 2021
Due to take place on Tuesday 16th March 2021, the Supreme Novices Hurdle is the race that kicks the whole festival off. At the moment we are still in the ‘Possible Entries’ period so there’s a lot still up in the air.
That hasn’t stopped bookmakers from installing Appreciate It from trainer Willie Mullins as the race favourite. Mullins has won this race four of the last eight renewals, though Nicky Henderson won it last year with Shishkin.
I should point out however there are currently 75 possible runners in the betting market so about 60 of these will not run.
2021 Arkle Chase
Following on from the Supreme Novices Hurdle is the Arkle Chase. The second race of day one, it is scheduled to start at 14:10. Shiskin, last year’s Supreme Novices winner is the current favourite.
Trained by Nicky Henderson, Shishkin is now a novice chaser and has started this season with two fantastic back-to-back wins. He was odds on both times and goes into the Arkle with a lot of credibility.
But it’s not a done deal with potential rival Envoi Allen from Gordon Elliott, hot on his heels. With a 100% win record, including a Grade 1, he may just have the edge.
Ultima Handicap Chase
This is a Grade 3 handicap chase so all runners are weighted according to the Offical Rating. The highest-rated horse carries the most weight and those weights descend according to each OR. This is designed to create a level playing field.
For 2021, Dickie Diver is the current race favourite. Another Nicky Henderson contender, he has only had one spin over fences so far. He was in second place and that was over 2m6f. The Ultima is a bit longer and he could go up against Kildisart who was second in this race last year.
Can Kildiart finally bag that long awaited win (last won in April 2019)? Or will the likes of The Conditional of Vinndication spoil the party?
Across the board, Epatante is the favourite for this race. Once again, she is another Nicky Henderson trained runner. She won this race last year and looks good to hold on to his crown.
SHE. IS. SPECIAL…
Champion Hurdle winner EPATANTE put in arguably the performance of the season so far yesterday making light work of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle! 🐎💨
😍 Just watch and admire!
— The Winners Enclosure (@TWEnclosure) November 29, 2020
Can Sharjah, Honeysuckle or Silver Streak stop her? Interestingly, Silver Streak did beat her last time out in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle so it is possible!
Despite that, Epatante is still on NRNB odds of 2/1 with Silver Streak on NRNB odds of 9/1 to take the race.
Mares Hurdle 2021
This race was won by Honeysuckle last year after she battled it out with Benie Des Dieux. A worthy winner, giving jockey Rachael Blackmore another Cheltenham win, Honeysuckle has started this season with a bang, winning another Grade 1 at Fairyhouse in November.
Her rivals in the Mares Hurdle will come, once again, from Benie Des Dieux as well as Concertista, Dame De Compagnie and Roksana. Can she hold on to her crown?
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
This is more of an open race with Adagio the current favourite on odds as big as 7/1. As prospects go, this 4-year-old, trained by David Pipe is certainly ticking all of the boxes.
Four starts over hurdles this season already and Adagio has bagged wins in three of them. He will have a lot of competition, possibly from the likes of Duffle Coat, Saint Sam and Hacker des Places.
National Hunt Chase
In 2020 this race was won by Ravenhill at NRNB odds of 12/1 so it’s good to look beyond the favourites so some value. Currently, Monkfish, from trainer Willie Mullins is leading the pack on the betting markets.
It's a barnstormer in the Albert Bartlett!
Monkfish brings up the three-timer from Latest Exhibition and Fury Road in a 1-2-3 for Ireland at @CheltenhamRaces.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 13, 2020
He is a winning machine and has won all five of his last races. That includes the Albert Bartlett at last year’s festival. In that race, he beat Latest Exhibition by three lengths and it looks like the duo will be going head-to-head again in March!
So there you have a quick run down of all the races on Day One of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. If you fancy any of the potential runners then betting on them with Non Runner Money back (NRNB) is an excellent option.