This year’s Cheltenham Festival starts on Tuesday and the first day at Prestbury Park is many people’s favourite. Seven high class races including three of the Festival’s biggest events, there’s plenty for punters to get involved with on Champion Day.
Wednesday is Ladies Day at Cheltenham and features the Queen Mother Champion Chase: one of the biggest races of the season.
Our guide looks ahead to the big events and horses to follow on the first two days of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.
2014’s Cheltenham Festival will get under way with the famous ‘Cheltenham roar’ at 1.30pm on Tuesday. The Supreme Novices Hurdle is the first race of the meeting while the Arkle Chase is just as exciting over the bigger fences at Prestbury Park. The feature race of the day is the brilliant Champion Hurdle over two miles and it promises to be a classic renewal.
The Supreme Novices Hurdle is a great way to kick off the Festival and canny punters can get off to a flyer. Shocks in this race are rare and the last six winners have gone off as 12/1 or less.
Five and six-year-olds have won all but six of the renewals of this event since 1972 and Irish horses have won twelve out of the last 22 races. Willie Mullins’ Wicklow Brave ticks the right boxes at 6/1.
The last ten winners of the Arkle have all gone off at 9/1 or under with an odds-on favourite winning under Barry Geraghty in each of the last two years. Irish favourite Champagne Fever could see corks popping this year and is the 3/1 favourite after a win at Punchestown in December.
Irish Arkle winner Trifolium is an interesting one to watch and is good value at 5/1. Despite being beaten by 8/1 chance Felix Yonger (second in the Irish Arkle) earlier in the season Trifolium has visibly improved by the run over fences and could go well here.
Six to nine year olds have the best record in the Champion Hurdle and so this is a mark against the 10 year old favourite and 2013 champion Hurricane Fly. If you want to oppose the favourite then there was little to choose between My Tent or Yours and The New One at the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day while Our Conor has been beaten by Hurricane Fly in his last two races (plus only one five year old has won the Champion Hurdle in the last 20 years).
The feature race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival is of course the brilliant Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles. It is one of the biggest races of the season and always proves to be a massive race for punters both on and off course.
As with so many races at the Festival the need for previous form at the course is crucial in this race. Only Newmill in 2006 and Master Minded in 2008 had not already run at the Festival and so proven Festival form is a huge plus.
Seven of the last ten winners gone off at 5/1 or shorter and so, in the absence of Sprinter Sacre, the 2/1 favourite is Sire de Grugy who has won six of his last seven races. After a great run at Leopardstown in December, Benefficient has chances at 6/1.
The main support race on Wednesday is the three mile RSA Chase. The winner of this race is generally a seven year old horse who has made the top four on all their completed starts. Ballycasey has five wins and a third place in six races and the 7 year old is the 4/1 favourite. Morning Assembly is also one to watch at 8/1.
Between 11th and 14th March 2014, over 200,000 people are expected to head to Prestbury Park for this year’s Cheltenham Festival. The Cheltenham Festival is the UK’s second biggest horse racing event – only the Grand National is bigger – with 27 high quality races over the four days.
Visitors to the Festival consume 220,000 pints of Guinness, 20,000 bottles of champagne and 10,000 gallons of tea and coffee over the four days. And, every year, race goers eat sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs that would stretch three miles if laid end to end.
Our guide tells you everything you need to know about this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
£600 million staked on the Festival
This year’s Cheltenham Festival features 27 high quality races including feature events such as the Arkle, the Champion Hurdle, the World Hurdle and the famous Gold Cup. And, as well as being one of the big weeks in the UK’s sporting calendar, it is also one of the UK’s biggest betting events.
At least £1 million changes hands on each race in the betting ring at Prestbury Park while the four day festival accounts for around one in every ten pounds spent annually on the Tote’s on-course pool betting.
And, it’s not just visitors to the Festival that like flutter on the event. Over half a billion pounds is staked on the Festival each year and a bad meeting for bookmakers can have a significant impact on their annual profits.
So, whether you are planning to head to Cheltenham this year or you want to place a bet at your local bookie, online or on your mobile phone, it’s never been easier.
What you’ll see at this year’s Festival
The Cheltenham Festival is held over four days, from Tuesday 11th to Friday 14th March 2014:
The event begins on Tuesday 11th March 2014 with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and ends on Friday afternoon with the Grand Annual Chase. Horses to watch out for include the brilliant Quevega, bidding to win the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle for an unprecedented sixth consecutive year. Big Buck’s is trying to win his fifth World Hurdle, Hurricane Fly is the favourite to retain his Champion Hurdle crown and Irish Arkle winner Trifolium is an interesting pick in Tuesday’s Arkle.
This year’s Gold Cup should also be a great race with a handful of horses boasting genuine chances. 2013 winner Bobs Worth is the favourite from Silviniaco Conti who was running well last year when he fell three fences out. Last Instalment also has chances as do First Lieutenant and 2011 winner Long Run.
The last of the major Grand Nationals sees the Scottish version take centre stage this weekend. Twenty-seven obstacles need jumping over a trip of four miles, plus some change. The recent inclement weather in Scotland means soft, and maybe even heavy terrain will be encountered so finding a mud lover, with strong staying prowess is the order of the day.
With 40 runners in each year’s Grand National finding the winner is as much to do with luck as skill. So many runners mean luck in running is going to be at a premium and that’s before you factor in the unique test the Liverpool course has to offer. 30 fences in total must be jumped, some, like Becher’s Brook which is a real test for a horse.
With 40 runners in each year’s Grand National finding the winner is as much to do with luck as skill. So many runners mean luck in running is going to be at a premium and that’s before you factor in the unique test the Liverpool course has to offer. 30 fences in total must be jumped, some, like Becher’s Brook which are a real test for a horse. So many runners over such a demanding course makes finding the winner of the Grand National a tough task but there’re some key stats and trends which will narrow down the 40 big field.
2.00 Aintree – Rose Appeal Supports Alder Hey Top Novices´ Hurdle
Only five go to post and it’s all about My Tent Or Yours who is your short odds-on favourite. His form and sheer quality is above anything in this field and he’ll prove tough to beat.
We move into the final day of the four day meeting and with heavy rain forecast I think we’ll need plenty of luck in finding a winner or two. A heavy down pour(s) could force a going change so you may have to adjust your bets throughout the day in the hope of getting ahead. We have two of the most competitive handicaps of the year on this card so don’t be surprised if you draw a blank, just like yesterday.
Run on Gold Cup day on the New Course, the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle is a severe test of stamina for a young horse. Any kinks in staying power will be found out so finding a horse that stays is key. Given previous winners like Weapons Amnesty (2009), Wichita Lineman (2007) and Bobs Worth (2011) went on to prove their worth over fences looking for a horse of stature should help in terms of indicating staying power.
1.30 Cheltenham – Jewson Novices´ Chase
A race that revolves around David Pipe’s classy grey, Dynaste. One of the festival big talking horses, there was much debate about where he was to run. He ditched the RSA to run here and it was the right call for me.
With the defection of the three time champion Big Bucks due to injury, we have the most open looking World Hurdle in years. In fact, you’d have to go back to 2006 when Alan King’s My Way De Solzen scored to get any resemblance of an open looking Stayer’s Hurdle. This year’s race is shaping up to be the most competitive renewal in a decade.
The Ryanair Chase was added to the festival back in 2005 and the race has been a welcome addition for me. The intermediate trip of two miles five furlongs gives top class chasers, who find two miles too sharp and three miles plus too taxing, an out in a quality event.