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Cheltenham Festival 2024 – 6 horses to follow

It is still summer so whisper it quietly, but we are now little more than three months away from the start of 2023/24 National Hunt season at Ludlow Racecourse.

While thereÔÇÖs still a ton of top-class flat racing to enjoy before we get to that point, jump racing fans cannot wait for autumn to arrive.

As is generally the case when the winter jumpers start strutting their stuff, there will be a heavy focus on which horses will end up at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

With that in mind, we have scoured the ante-post markets to identify six horses we believe are worth popping in your notebooks and following this season.

Marine Nationale ÔÇô Champion Hurdle

Uncertainty over whether Constitution Hill will go over fences next season makes picking the winner of the Champion Hurdle a little complicated.

Nicky HendersonÔÇÖs stable star romped home in the race last March and would be long odds-on to retain his crown if stays over hurdles.┬áHowever, if Constitution Hill embarks on a chasing career, Marine Nationale would be a lively contender to claim Champion Hurdle glory.

The Barry Connell-trained horse was a superb winner of this yearÔÇÖs Supreme NovicesÔÇÖ Hurdle and looks a good bet to improve again next season.

Ballyburn ÔÇô Albert Bartlett NovicesÔÇÖ Hurdle

Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins is generally a man to follow at the Festival, with many of his horses well-backed to win their respective races.

One of his most exciting prospects for next season is Ballyburn, who secured two highly impressive bumper victories at Punchestown earlier this year.┬áHe has already attracted interest on horse racing betting sites for the Albert Bartlett NovicesÔÇÖ Hurdle, but remains a very backable price.

Co-owner Ronnie Bartlett sponsors the race and will undoubtedly be dreaming about leading Ballyburn into the winnerÔÇÖs circle at Cheltenham. Bartlett is no stranger to Festival success either; his Simonsig ran up a winning sequence of 6 races in 2012-13, culminating in the Arkle Trophy.

Corbetts Cross ÔÇô Brown Advisory NovicesÔÇÖ Chase

Plenty of punters had their fingers burnt when Corbetts Cross crashed through the wing of the final hurdle in the 2023 Albert Bartlett.

He spectacularly unseated jockey Mark Walsh to thwart one of the biggest gambles of the week and leave bettors pondering what might have been.

The horse is set to go over bigger obstacles next season, with the Brown Advisory NovicesÔÇÖ Chase likely to be his primary Festival target.┬áOwner JP McManus purchased the horse with a chasing career in mind and he will be eager to gain his revenge on the bookmakers in March.

Aurora Vega ÔÇô MaresÔÇÖ Novices Hurdle

Aurora Vega recently got her career off to the perfect start in a 2m2f bumper at Sligo and looks destined to go to the top over hurdles.

The five-year-old daughter of Walk In The Park and star mare Quevega was heavily touted before the race and delivered the goods in style. The mare emulated brother Facile Vega and half-sister Princess Vega by winning on her debut to hammer home the feeling this was a special performance.

The MaresÔÇÖ Novices Hurdle is the natural target for Aurora Vega and she looks well worth an interest at double digit odds in the ante-post market.

State Man ÔÇô TurnersÔÇÖ NovicesÔÇÖ Chase

State Man would have been a comfortable winner of this yearÔÇÖs Champion Hurdle had Constitution Hill not been in the line-up, and Mullins will be keen to avoid that horse next season.

The two-mile Arkle NovicesÔÇÖ Chase is a viable target if both horses go over fences, but Mullins may decide to take an alternative route.

The TurnersÔÇÖ NovicesÔÇÖ Chase is run over an additional half-mile, which should suit State Man as he has already won a Grade 1 hurdle over 2m 3f at Punchestown.

Odds of around 12/1 look a tempting proposition given the horseÔÇÖs form over hurdles and MullinsÔÇÖ ability to pick the right races for his horses.

Love Envoi ÔÇô MaresÔÇÖ Hurdle

With Honeysuckle now safely enjoying her retirement, the way is clear for another horse to add her name to the MaresÔÇÖ Hurdle roll of honour.

Lossiemouth is the favourite for the race having claimed the 2023 Triumph Hurdle, but Mullins has hinted she may be aimed at the Champion Hurdle.

On that basis, Love Envoi looks a good bet to go one better in the MaresÔÇÖ Hurdle after running a fine second behind Honeysuckle this year.┬áHarry Fry’s charge won the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in 2022 so clearly loves the track and she is strongly fancied to run another stormer next March.

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