THE jumps season is about to reach a whole new level.
Cheltenham Festival, Aintree and the Grand National and then Punchestown soon after all show off the best of the game. Here's a few you should be backing.
Best bets for 2021
Al Boum Photo – Cheltenham, Gold Cup 11-4
Not the most imaginative one to start us off. But the two-time champ will surely be hard to beat if he turns up in shape.
Little has emerged through the ranks to take him on just yet and he still looks a bet at current odds.
I've already put him up in earlier column at 9-2 and 4-1, but that's been trimmed slightly after his winning return at Tramore.
The same points apply now and he's just the most versatile and classiest out of the bunch.
Epatante – Cheltenham, Champion Hurdle 7-2
It looks as if our long-time antepost tickle on Song For Someone may miss the target with Aintree now on the cards for Tom Symonds' star.
But with the resurgence of Goshen and Honeysuckle now also destined for this race, Epatante is all of a sudden a much bigger price than you might expect.
It's easy to forgive her her defeat at Kempton, and on her win in this race last season she showed she has the ability on her day to be a level above most of these.
Nicky Henderson will have her primed after a layoff and at 7-2 she is a must bet.
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Edwardstone – Cheltenham, County Hurdle 20-1
This horse has been on my radar a while. Both his sixth in the Supreme and his fifth in the Greatwood were more than encouraging.
They both marked him out as a high-end handicapper and both efforts were posted on what wouldn't be his ground.
Connections have since tried him over fences but he unseated at Doncaster and has since been entered for the Betfair Hurdle.
In my book there is unfinsihed business over the smaller obstacles and he should be a massive player in any big handicap over two miles or so. That makes a race like the County Hurdle very appealing.
With some better spring ground, he could well prove plenty better than his current mark of 141*.
*Now rated 148 after a win at Market Rasen and a third in Betfair Hurdle
Kimberlite Candy – Aintree, Grand National 28-1
I was all over Tom Lacey's chaser for this race last season before you know what got involved.
But little has put me off since and the horse remains tailor-made for this unique test.
He's only been seen once so far this campaign, running another blinder in the Becher Chase to finish second as he did in 2019.
He's slowly crept up the weights for his efforts, including a taking win in the Classic Chase at Warwick but he remains a horse on the up and hasn't been over-faced whatsoever.
Better, spring ground suits him too and hopefully come April time that's the case. the 40s and 50s available at one point have been snapped up, but he remains a great bet in my book.
Presenting Percy – Aintree, Grand National 33-1
Gordon Elliott has already won with his new recruit and something tells me he'd been lining up a bid for the Aintree showpiece with his stayer.
Events of the last week have changed little for this horse with his owner Philip Reynolds one of those to come out and publicly support the trainer.
Denise Foster will of course take over the training of the horse for the big one and connections have no interest in a run at Cheltenham this time around.
The Grand National isn't the stamina or jumping test it once was, and classier horses are often found towards the top of the finishers.
Only in 2019 was he sent off favourite for the Gold Cup. Plenty will become clearer in the next few weeks, but if he lines up Aintree he will have a huge chance.
Tom Marquand – Flat Jockeys Championship 2021 6-1
Could 2021 be the year Marquand wins the title he's been after for the past couple of seasons?
Surely now he might just get the ammo needed after just falling short when push came to shove towards the back-end of the summer?
It's unlikely Oisin Murphy's drug man will affect the defending champion much in terms of the title, but will Will Buick really have the ambition to go for it again after missing out last year?
At 2-1 Buick can be passed over and Murphy does have some ghosts to bury.
Marquand has the momentum and will once more be able to call on the likes of William Haggas, Richard Hannon and other top trainers – it's likely even more will get behind him this time round.
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