Millar's Method: Eye-catching entries for the 2024 Cheltenham Festival analysed

11 January 2024

It’s often debated whether the addition of the fourth day at the Cheltenham Festival has enhanced or diminished the quality of the week. That’s a discussion for another day. However, one thing that I don’t think can be debated is that the fourth day has added an extra layer of complexity to ante-post betting due to the increased number of potential targets. As a punter we need to heed every clue we can unearth and often the initial entries can offer such clues.

THE HURDLE RACES (Champion, Mares, Stayers)


Given that Constitution Hill is the shortest priced ante-post favourite the Champion Hurdle entries are really of minimal interest.

Bob Olinger is an interesting entry, he looked to be getting back to somewhere near the form he showed as a novice hurdler with an emphatic display of pace when landing the Relkeel Hurdle last month. He wasn’t given an entry in the Stayers' Hurdle so it looks like being Champion Hurdle or nothing for this dual festival winner.

After being comprehensively knocked aside by stablemate State Man in the Matheson Hurdle at Christmas, Impaire Et Passe has been entered in both the champion and the stayers. In the immediate aftermath of that defeat his trainer, Willie Mullins, suggested they would look to stretch him out in trip but has since slightly rowed back on that position by suggesting his next run will be in the Irish Champion Hurdle. How he fares there will decide his target. 

For all that he was well beaten at Leopardstown, I didn’t feel he received a vintage ride and wonder whether he’s yet hit top gear this season. Regardless I’d make him one of the lays of the week if he was aimed at the stayers but wouldn’t totally rule out him reversing form with State Man if he were to head to the champion. 

Those holding ante-post slips about Burdett Road for the Triumph Hurdle might have had mild heart palpitations on seeing his name in the Champion Hurdle entries, but there hasn’t been a four-year-old winner of it in my lifetime and this would seem an odd year to try and break that statistic.

Conversely those holding ante-post slips for Marine Nationale in the Arkle will be happy to see that last year's Supreme Hurdle winner not being given the option of reverting to hurdles, frankly after his performance at Leopardstown why waste the entry fee!


The quintet of Lossiemouth, Echoes In Rain, Gala Marceau, Love Envoi and Luccia are doubly entered in the Champion and Mares' Hurdle. I’d struggle to see any of these taking up the Champion Hurdle option and hope Gala Marceau avoids both as I’d strongly fancy her in a strongly run County Hurdle. 

While these five are doubly entered it was interesting to see that both Ashroe Diamond and Marie’s Rock only have Mares’ Hurdle entries. Marie’s Rock was this time last year mooted as a potential Stayers Hurdle' contender, but this year's entry for that race looks deeper and regardless she’s looked regressive so far this season.


In the Stayers’ Hurdle notable entries are Flooring Porter, who after a promising start has regressed over fences, as well as Ahoy Senor who for my money would appreciate being faced with a less demanding jumping examination. Connections seem less convinced so he rates an unlikely runner. The lesser-spotted Monkfish also holds an entry but such are his frailties he can’t be considered a likely runner until he’s actually sighted in the paddock on the day!

Those who, like me, hold ante-post slips for Corbetts Cross in novice chases will be happy to see he wasn’t given a Stayers' Hurdle entry which suggests connections are committed to a novice chase – there’s just the small matter of figuring out which one.

Owners Robcour are doubly represented by the Gordon Elliott trained Teahupoo and Irish Point. It’s highly likely only one of these two will take their chance with the other bypassing Cheltenham and heading instead to Aintree. 

For my own reasons, I’m reluctant to back Elliott trained horses so I’m hoping they run Teahupoo who I don’t fancy to beat Irish Point. I think Irish Point has an an excellent chance of winning this race. 

I was surprised to see last year's eighth Gold Tweet not given a chance to redeem himself, especially now that his jockey Johnny Charron has experience of  a championship race at Cheltenham and knows where the winning post is situated. French star Theleme (my early season selection) is entered and connections have announced he’ll prepare for Cheltenham with a spin on the flat in February.

THE CHASES (Champion, Ryanair, Gold Cup)


With dual-winner Energumene out injured the Champion Chase trophy will have a new name on it this year. It’s hard to think this isn’t a straight shootout between the first two home in last years Arkle, El Fabiolo and Jonbon though interestingly both also hold an entry in the Ryanair Chase, they could potentially clash at Ascot in the Clarence House and I suppose if one or other were to suffer a heavy defeat they might divert to the Ryanair.

Captain Guiness had looked an improved horse this season before being found to be clinically abnormal when failing to fire on his latest start. He has settled much better this year but is still restricted to just a Champion Chase entry.

Dinoblue is a notable entry, she’s looked a real improver this season and comfortably accounted for a solid field in the grade one at Leopardstown, but please Willie do the right thing and run her in the Mares’ Chase!

The final one who caught my eye in the Champion Chase entries was Amarillo Sky, he’d put together two good runs in the autumn of 2022 and given that he finished lame in the Clarence House chase (run at Cheltenham in 2023) ran well to only be beaten 9-lengths. At 50/1 he is an interesting outsider in a race that might well end up having only a handful of runners.


The Ryanair is shaping up to be a competitive race, Allaho, who seemingly carried an air of invincibility didn’t look such a fearsome proposition when only third in the King George at Kempton and that will surely offer encouragement to those looking to take him on. Stage Star and Notlongtillmay have both franked the form of the 2023 Turners Chase by running well under big weights in the Paddy Power, Stage Star looked especially smart winning in good style off a lofty mark.

Fugitif demonstrated that Cheltenham truly is a ‘horses for courses’ venue when he gained a deserved victory in the December Gold Cup, adding to an already strong course record. He was well beaten by Stage Star in the Paddy Power but has improved again and is far from a back number.

Edwardstone is entered in both the Ryanair and the Champion Chase. He’s been well beaten by Jonbon twice this season so the Ryanair looks the logical target, he’ll test his credentials for that in the Silviniaco Conti chase at Kempton on Saturday the 10/1 available now won’t last if he wins that.

Also entered at Kempton is Banbridge. He was a non-runner in last year's Turners on account of soft ground but delivered a strong performance when winning the Manifesto Chase at Aintree. He should not be underestimated and is high on my shortlist.


Shishkin was sent off an even-money favourite for last years Ryanair but, in a sign of things to come looked moody throughout, he sparkled when winning the Aintree Bowl on his first try at three miles and again looked a thorough stayer before his mishap two-out in the King George. The Gold Cup is his only entry at Cheltenham and given that the start is situated on the run towards home he rates the likeliest danger to last years winner Galopin Des Champs who took his form to a new level when obliterating a strong looking field in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.

Fastorslow is to some degree the unknown quantity. He’s twice beaten Galopin Des Champs at Punchestown but I find it hard to believe that the Gold Cup winner ran to form on either occasion. Martin Brassil’s son of Saint Des Saints has clearly improved since being beaten off a mark of 150 in last year's Ultima (ouch it still hurts) but at a best-priced 4/1 doesn’t offer value. He does hold a Ryanair entry but I struggle to find a scenario that would see him line-up in anything but the Gold Cup.

L’Homme Presse is arguably the most interesting entrant. He’s not been seen since unseating in the 2022 King George, where his tendency to jump to his left compromised his chance. He had smart novice form and won a strong edition of the Brown Advisory before defying a mark of 164 in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle. I’m a big fan of the horse and his trainer but his most recent leg injury was the second in his career so I’d like to see him run and return sound before seriously factoring him into any conclusions about the Gold Cup.

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