Cheltenham Festival Eyecatchers: Tom Collins identifies five horses you should follow

20 March 2023

This year’s Cheltenham Festival is now in the history books, but the great thing about racing is that you can dwell on the past, live in the present and look to the future.

I’m going to focus on the latter perspective in this article by pinpointing five beaten horses who should be closely monitored on their next start and kept in your tracker until they return to the track next season. 

It would be all well and good for me to say that Constitution Hill, Impaire Et Passe and Galopin Des Champs are worth following, but it’s the under-the-radar performances that will provide the best future value bets. Let’s get into it.

Third Time Lucki

Fourth of 19 in the Grand Annual

Despite winning a couple of soft ground bumpers early in his career, it is common knowledge that Third Time Lucki is a better horse when the sun has been shining. That factor makes his performance in Wednesday’s Grand Annual even more surprising.

Dan Skelton’s eight-year-old appeared to lose his way in the autumn before posting an overdue success in a Sandown handicap last month. He was hit with a 6lb penalty for that and raced off a mark of 149 at Cheltenham. On the evidence of his smooth-travelling and highly promising display, he should be able to capitalise when he gets quicker underfoot conditions.

Walking On Air

Fifth of 23 in the Pertemps Final

Much like the aforementioned Third Time Lucky, this Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old’s best form had all come on spring ground. In fact, Thursday’s Pertemps Final marked the first time that Walking On Air had encountered genuine soft conditions. He clearly handled it to some degree, but it almost certainly blunted his main attribute: a potent turn of foot. 

Walking On Air raced keenly throughout the early stages of this big-field handicap and made a number of jumping errors - some significant, some not so. He was briefly hampered on two occasions (down the side of the course and after the last hurdle), yet still ran home strongly for minor money. 

There’s a 3m½f handicap hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National festival that would be perfect for him, but he’s also worth following when he embarks on his chasing career.

Home By The Lee

Fifth of 11 in the Stayers’ Hurdle

Teahupoo is the obvious choice for a horse to follow from the Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle. Gordon Elliott’s third-placed finisher was the only runner to make notable inroads from the back of the pack and sustain his effort up the hill. However, it’s Home By The Lee who may be underbet next time.

Joseph O’Brien’s top-level winner made a terrible mistake at the sixth hurdle as they passed the stands for the first time - he completely lost his back-end and dropped back several places as a result. Normally such an error would completely end a horse’s race, but that wasn’t the case here as Home By The Lee regathered his momentum and stuck on powerfully up the hill to be beaten just three-and-three-quarter lengths. He should get redemption soon.


Fifth of 15 in the Triumph Hurdle

The Triumph Hurdle turned into a sprint and the highly talented Lossiemouth ended up taking the prize with stablemates Gala Marceau and Zenta filling the places. Friday’s opener favoured speed horses and those who raced prominently, and therefore I want to take fifth-home Ascending out of the contest for next time.

Henry de Bromhead’s four-year-old had just one rival behind him down the backstraight, but he made noticeable progress into mid-division as they swung for home and continued his sustained effort up the hill. He could never get involved with the eventual protagonists, but he seems to be progressing into a nice type and is well capable of winning a handicap off his hurdling mark.

Petit Tonnerre

Seventh of 24 in the County Hurdle

Pause the County Hurdle at the second-last hurdle and Jonjo O’Neill’s Petit Tonnerre has just three horses behind him, yet he’s still on the bridle. He turned for home on the slower ground towards the inside of the track before switching closer to the stands to jump the last, after which he was partially broadsided by his closest rival. 

Nevertheless, he continued to pass beaten horses up the hill and put three lengths between himself and First Street in the drive for the line. Petit Tonnerre hasn’t won a race since his hurdling debut in February 2022, but he’s going to prove extremely dangerous when he’s stepped up in trip and tried over fences.

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