The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most eagerly anticipated meetings of the year, generating plenty of excitement and number of bets across the horse racing industry.
The 2022 edition could be one of the best yet, with a plethora of equine superstars expected to be strutting their stuff at the Gloucestershire track next March.
All of the top trainers will have plenty of fancied runners at the Festival, making it difficult for punters to pick out winners over the four days.
With that in mind, we take a closer look at four horses we believe will be well worth following in the run-up to the Festival and beyond.
Jonbon – Nicky Henderson
With a £570,000 price tag hanging around his neck, there will be a lot of disappointed faces at Seven Barrows if Jonbon fails to deliver at Cheltenham.
However, this full-brother to Douvan demonstrated his massive potential in style at Newbury recently, romping home by six lengths ahead of a decent field.
Jockey Adrian Coleman barely moved a muscle throughout the race, highlighting that the horse has a serious engine.
Jonbon is already the favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and will be a tough nut to crack when the Festival comes around.
Bob Olinger – Henry de Bromhead
Bob Olinger won the Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle in January before taking the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in March.
He returned to action over fences at Gowran Park for the first time earlier this month and recorded an easy victory under jockey Darragh O’Keeffe.
The six-year-old failed to impress everyone with his jumping, but may well improve when Rachael Blackmore takes over in the saddle.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead has high hopes for Bob Olinger and it would be no surprise to see the horse tackle one of the big novice chases at Cheltenham.
Sir Gerhard – Willie Mullins
Sir Gerhard won two bumpers prior to joining Willie Mullins’ yard and subsequently won the Champion Bumper at the Festival last March.
He was a shade disappointing behind Kilcruit in the equivalent contest at the Punchestown Festival, although that does represent top-class form.
Mullins has entered Sir Gerhard in the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, highlighting how highly he rates the horse.
There are already plans to step Sir Gerhard up to two and a half miles, which would give Mullins plenty of races to choose from at the Festival.
Bravemansgame – Paul Nicholls
Bravemansgame looked an exciting proposition during the first half of last season, winning three out of his four outings over hurdles.
His victory in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury was particularly impressive and he followed up by finishing third behind Bob Olinger at Cheltenham.
He ran another creditable race when runner-up at Aintree, but his size and scope indicated that his future always lay over fences.
Bravemansgame has already won twice over the bigger obstacles this term and is very much a horse to follow as the season progresses.