As the trainer with the most wins in Cheltenham’s National Hunt Chase any horse entered by Jonjo O’Neill is worth consideration this year.
The Irishman’s charge Shutthefrontdoor will attempt to emulate the achievements of Front Line (1995), Rith Dubh (2002), Sudden Shock (2003), Native Emperor (2004) and Butler’s Cabin (2007) before him in the 16:40 on Day One of the festival.
The seven-year-old started his career with a bang, winning seven of his first nine races, and is currently second favourite to land this title at 3/1.
A dip in form on recent outings and a failure to reach the frame on all three of his previous runs over this course are a cause for concern, but with O’Neill’s charge undergoing a wind operation since his most recent Cheltenham disappointment a re-energised Shutthefrontdoor could build on the trainer’s already impressive resume.
The main threat to O’Neill’s nag comes in the shape of ante-post jolly Foxrock, who has four wins from his last six races and is currently priced at 5/2.
Ted Walsh’s six-year-old will be saddled by his daughter Katie and after reaching the frame on all but one of his completed rides Barry Connell’s horse will be ready to pounce should Shutthefrontdoor be found wanting on his return from the operating table.
The bay gelding has been the frontrunner since picking up a Grade 2 victory in the Novices Chase at Navan in February and looks extremely difficult to oppose.
Aside from the two market leaders, Shotgun Paddy leads the chasing pack – as far as the betting is concerned – and should certainly be considered at tempting odds of 5/1.
Victory in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick on his last outing means Emma Lavelle’s seven-year-old boasts arguably the best form coming into this race, but with the majority of his wins coming on softer ground the pace may prove a little much here.
However, should the unlikely happen and the heavens open over the Cotswolds overnight, Shotgun Paddy will be expected to push the leading contenders all the way.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.