Cheltenham Betting

Mar 15, 22 days ago

2017 Cheltenham Festival Preview

2017 Cheltenham Festival Preview

There’s another four days of top-class racing to look forward to this week as the Cheltenham Festival returns.
While plenty of big names are absent from this year’s Festival, there are still plenty of impressive horses looking for a share of the £4.1 million prize money. Keep reading for our Cheltenham Festival betting preview.

Four big races head Cheltenham Festival betting
A year ago, Cue Card threw away victory in the Gold Cup when falling three fences out. Paddy Brennan rides the horse again this year with Cue Card bidding to become the oldest Gold Cup winner since What A Myth in 1969.
It is likely to be one of the three favourites for the race, alongside Native River and Dkajadam who is looking to make it third-time lucky after finishing second in each of the last two Gold Cups.
There could be a huge story on Friday when 23 year old Lizzie Kelly becomes the first female jockey in 33 years to line up in the Gold Cup. Having become the first woman to win a Grade 1 event in Britain and Ireland over fences, she rides Tea For Two, a 50/1 chance.
Yanworth is the favourite for the Champion Hurdle but a better bet may be one of the two Nicky Henderson horses. Buveur D’Air is the second favourite while Brain Power has recorded two impressive wins in handicap events this season.
Few horses will go off at shorter odds this week than Douvan in Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.
This is a race Willie Mullins has yet to win but the odds-on favourite goes on any ground, and is proven over the course and the distance having previously won the Arkle.
2015 Arkle winner Un De Sceaux went off as the odds-on favourite last year and could be a contender on soft ground while Altior and Fox Norton will also feature strongly in the betting.
Unbeaten in every start since November 2015, Unowhatimeanharry is the favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle. The eight year old is also unbeaten at Cheltenham, including a win in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett last year.
Having also won the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, he is a clear favourite, from Vroum Vroum Mag and Shaneshill.
See all the odds here.

Lots of value in Cheltenham betting

After finishing fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, Tombstone is the favourite for this year’s Coral Cup and is one of the best ante-post bets of the Festival.
Gordon Elliot’s horse easily accounted for Jezki last time out despite being officially 20lbs wrong at the weights and he has only raised 1lb for that win. He will go off in Wednesday’s race with at least 7lbs in hand which means he should be backed at the 9/2 currently available.
If the inconsistencies in his jumping have been ironed out, then Yorkhill has a terrific chance in Thursday’s JLT.
He won the Neptune last year with a huge leap at the last, beating one of this week’s other ante-post favourites, Yanworth. With Ruby Walsh on board – 52 Festival wins to his name – he is a terrific bet at 5/4.
If you’re looking for a long shot to back then you could do worse than Soldier in Action in the Triumph Hurdle.
He is big and strong, won a decent handicap at Goodwood and has plenty of experience. If the weather is good and the ground dries up, the 20/1 on the Nicky Henderson 4 year-old will look like terrific value.
See all the odds here.

Mar 13, 755 days ago

Quick Jack set for County Hurdle bid

Quick Jack set for County Hurdle bid

Bookmakers have been hit by well-fancied runners in two of this week’s big handicap hurdles and Tony Martin’s Quick Jack could deliver another blow in Friday’s County Hurdle.

Aux Ptit Soins landed a gamble for the Paul Nicholls stable in Wednesday’s Coral Cup while Call The Cops was very popular in the Pertemps Final after a recent victory at Doncaster. Both horses attracted plenty of ante-post support and returned at 9-1.

Many punters have been holding fire on Quick Jack who was entered for several races this week. He first hit the headlines when landing a huge gamble at Cheltenham in November 2013. Ruby Walsh was on board the son of 2000 Guineas winner Footstepsinthesand as he swept clear to win off a handicap mark of 113.

Tony Martin considered running him in a number of big races that season but felt that the handicapper had been harsh in giving him a rating of 136. The gelding was beaten off a mark of 119 in Ireland when third to Gilgamboa at Leopardstown. Cheltenham was ruled out that season and he did not reappear until winning comfortably on the flat at Galway in July last year.

That set him up nicely for a tilt at the Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket where he again attracted heavy support. Sent off the 5-1 favourite, Richard Hughes took him to the front with a furlong to travel but he could not quite hold off Big Easy and De Rigueur. This will be his first race since but there is still a suspicion that he is better than his current handicap mark suggests.

Joining him in the field is Dr Richard Newland’s Ebony Express who is chasing a £100,000 bonus after winning the Imperial Cup at Sandown last Saturday. The six-year-old put up a brave performance to pull off a 33-1 shock when beating Rayvin Black and Gassin Golf in a thrilling finish. He picks up a 5lbs penalty for that victory as he goes in pursuit of an elusive bonus last paid out in 2007.

On that occasion it was David Pipe’s Gaspara who followed up victory in the Imperial Cup by taking the Fred Winter Hurdle. Pipe’s father, Martin, trained the winner of the bonus twice with Olympian (1993) and Blowing Wind (1998). Dr Newland will have taken great encouragement from the run of Grand National winner Pineau De Re who finished eleventh in the Pertemps Final and now heads to Aintree for a second time.

Mar 13, 755 days ago

McCoy hopes to bow out in style

McCoy hopes to bow out in style

Champion jockey Tony McCoy rode a brilliant race to make all the running on Uxizandre and win Thursday’s Grade 1 Ryanair Chase. The 16-1 winner was wearing a visor for the first time after a couple of disappointing efforts and was certainly lit up by the new headgear. He jumped superbly to hold off Ma Filleule and the favourite Don Cossack.

The victory was greeted with as much enthusiasm as an odds-on favourite as McCoy saluted the crowd in the winner’s enclosure. It ended a long wait for McCoy’s first winner of the week but he is hoping that it won’t be his last.

He is optimistic of a good ride on Hargam in the opening Triumph Hurdle on Friday for Nicky Henderson, the training have earlier broken his festival duck for the week with Call The Cops in the Pertemps Final. Hargam was impressive when winning at Musselburgh last month and is one of three strongly-fancied runners for the Lambourn trainer in the race.

McCoy then partners Princely Conn for Thomas Mullins in the competitive County Hurdle. The six-year-old has been running consistently in Ireland and was a close second at Leopardstown last month. Fletchers Flyer looks up against it in a top quality renewal of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle but he could have each-way claims on his Wincanton victory over Aqalim in January. The runner-up ran well when finishing fifth on Thursday’s card.

There will be plenty of sentimental support for McCoy’s Gold Cup mount, Carlingford Lough. He booked his place in the field when winning the Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown under a typically strong McCoy ride. The gelding did not jump well here last year in the RSA Chase but plenty of punters will put their faith in the champion jockey in his last Gold Cup.

McCoy had a choice of mounts in the finale but has decided to partner last year’s runner-up Ned Buntline for Noel Meade. The son of Refuse To Bend has only raced twice since, most recently finishing down the field in a handicap hurdle at Leopardstown.

Ned Buntline has already been the subject of strong support this week and bookmakers will be bracing themselves for a big pay-out if McCoy can deliver the perfect end to the festival meeting. Uxizandre was McCoy’s 31st winner at the Cheltenham festival but it may not necessarily have been his last.

Mar 12, 756 days ago

Mullins targets Martin Pipe Hurdle

Mullins targets Martin Pipe Hurdle

It has already been a great week for Trainer Willie Mullins with an opening day four-timer, a 1-2-3 in the Champion Hurdle and Don Poli’s impressive RSA Chase victory. The County Carlow handler will be looking to add to his tally in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, the penultimate race at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

The race was introduced in 2009 and Mullins has already won it twice with Sir Des Champs and Don Poli. He has several entries again this year with Roi Des Francs the clear favourite after winning well at Clonmel last month.

The six-year-old son of Poliglote was beaten by Drumacoo on his hurdling debut at Punchestown in October but made amends at Thurles next time. He races in the familiar colours of Gigginstown House Stud, as did his previous two winners of the two and a half mile contest.

He could be joined in the race by McKinley, a son of Kheleyf out of a Montjeu mare. He sprang a 33-1 shock when winning a Grade 1 hurdle at Naas in January and does not look harshly treated off a mark of 136. He was no match for stable companion Nichols Canyon in the Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown last month but has been the subject of each-way support at long odds.

David Pipe would dearly love to win the race named in honour of his father, Martin. He still had eleven entries ahead of the final declaration stage and will be hoping that some of them make the cut. Vieux Lion Rouge was heavily backed in this race last year but faded badly over the closing hurdles to finish in the rear.

He has not raced since Haydock in November while Balgarry, a beaten favourite in the Coral Cup in 2012, needs several to come out above him. The same applies to Dr Richard Newland’s Imperial Cup winner Ebony Express despite a 5lbs penalty.

Paul Nicholls landed one major handicap on Wednesday when Aux Ptit Soins won the Coral Cup. There has plenty of support for the stable’s Le Mercurey here, another French import with very little form in this country.

The son of Nickname was a remote seventh at Newbury on his debut for his new yard but improved to finish third to Baradari in a Grade 2 handicap at Ascot in January. He seemed to hit a flat spot three out that day before running on again at the finish. Sean Bowen has been booked to ride on Friday with the race due off at 4.40.

Mar 12, 756 days ago

Sheikh Fahad buys Foxhunter Chase hope

Sheikh Fahad buys Foxhunter Chase hope

Sheikh Fahad Al Thani and Pearl Bloodstock are better known for their flat racing interests but their colours will be carried in Friday’s Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham.

Sheikh Fahad’s most successful horse to date has been Just The Judge who won the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Grade 1 EP Taylor Stakes. He was part-owner along with the Sangster family when she won the Irish classic but has now bought out his co-owners and joined with The China Horse Club to purchase the four-year-old for a British auction record of £4.7million. It is all a far cry from the world of hunter chasers and the Cheltenham festival.

The Sheikh has purchased the eight-year-old gelding Current Event, trained by Rose Loxton and due to be partnered by Bryony Frost in the race that follows the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is currently second favourite in the betting behind Paint The Clouds as he bids to follow up his six-length win at Musselburgh last month.

The son of Muhtathir began his racing career in France before joining Paul Nicholls in 2010. He won a novice hurdle at Newbury and three novice chases the following season. He went on to win handicaps at Kempton and Perth and finished sixth behind stable companion Rebel Rebellion in the Grand Sefton Chase at Aintree in 2013.

Bryony Frost is the daughter of Grand National winning jockey Jimmy, successful on Little Polveir in 1989. He was also associated with the Champion Hurdler Morley Street who won two Breeders’ Cup races in America.

Sheikh Fahad has only had one previous runner at the festival meeting when Vulcanite finished tenth in the 2012 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He was later sold to JP McManus and could also be in action on Friday in the County Hurdle for Charlie Longsdon.

Paint The Clouds heads the market after an impressive ten-length win at Doncaster last month for Warren Greatrex. He won the Stratford Champion Hunters’ Chase last May while McManus will rely on Enda Bolger’s On The Fringe. The ten-year-old finished fourth behind Zemsky in this race in 2011 and was third to Tammys Hill last year.

Also due to line up is two-time winner Salsify who made a satisfactory return from injury when fourth at Leopardstown last month. He won the race in 2012 and 2013 but knocked a joint on Boxing Day that year and was forced to miss his hat-trick bid. His last victory here is best remembered for Jane Mangan being unseated from Oscar Delta when four lengths clear of Salsify on the run-in. The Foxhunter Chase is due off at 4.00 on Friday.

Mar 11, 757 days ago

Stephens eyes festival glory with Beltor

Stephens eyes festival glory with Beltor

Trainer Robert Stephens is only in his second season but is already dreaming of a Cheltenham festival winner.

The recent victory by Beltor in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton resulted in his price being slashed from 33-1 to 12-1 for the Triumph Hurdle. The gelding is now as short as 6-1 despite a strong field that includes three smart hurdlers trained by Nicky Henderson.

Stephens was in a similar position a year ago when the highly-rated Modus contested the Champion Bumper but that ultimately ended in disappointment. The gelding could never get any cover in a large field and Tom O’Brien was forced to race wide throughout, eventually finishing eighth of the 22 runners.

Stephens learned his trade with Sir Mark Prescott who trained Beltor on the flat, winning a minor handicap at Redcar last September over a mile and a quarter. He was only rated 76 on the level but looks a much better animal over a few flights of hurdles.

He made his hurdling debut at Ludlow in January where he readily accounted for the well-backed Arabian Revolution and Sebastian Beach. He was 16-1 that day but was backed into 3-1 at Kempton and never gave his supporters a moment of anxiety. Jockey Tom O’Brien was still restraining him with three to jump and allowed him to bowl into the lead before pulling five lengths away from All Clear.

O’Brien felt that they did not go quick enough for him at Kempton and believes that the son of Authorized will be even better with a stronger pace. He will certainly get that at Cheltenham as the Triumph Hurdle is always well contested.

Nicky Henderson’s Cheltenham did not get off to a great start on the opening day but he saddles Peace And Co, Hargam and Top Notch in the Juvenile championship race. All three can be given an excellent chance while Willie Mullins may be also run three. Petite Parisienne and Kalkir, first and second at Leopardstown last month, could be joined in the line-up by Gowran Park winner Dicosimo.

Alan King also has a fine record in the race and is doubly represented with Pain Au Chocolat and Karezak. The former was an impressive winner at Sandown off a very slow pace while Karezak has finished runner-up on his last four starts. The Triumph Hurdle is the opening race on Gold Cup day and is due off at 1.30.

Mar 11, 757 days ago

Coneygree confirmed for Gold Cup

Coneygree confirmed for Gold Cup

Leading novice chaser Coneygree will take his chance in Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup after trainer Mark Bradstock withdrew him from the RSA Chase.

The eight-year-old son of Karinga Bay has won all three starts over fences since returning from a long-term injury in November. He was bred by the late Lord Oaksey and enjoyed a successful season as a novice hurdler, winning four races and finishing a creditable third to At Fishers Cross at the 2013 festival meeting. He races in the colours of The Max Partnership which includes Oaksey’s widow, Lady Chicky Oaksey.

He was due to make his return at Plumpton after 660 days off the track but was withdrawn on veterinary advice in controversial circumstances. He was re-routed to Newbury where he beat Dell’Arca after the favourite Saphir Du Rheu had unseated Sam Twiston-Davies at the seventh fence. There was more drama on his next outing in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton where four of the seven runners failed to complete, Coneygree eventually being allowed to coast home 40 lengths clear of Warden Hill.

Connections decided to take a further step up in class for the Denman Chase against seasoned chasers at Newbury last month. He made all the running to win by seven lengths and that made the Gold Cup a realistic target. His nearest pursuers were Houblon Des Obeaux and Unioniste, both rated around the 160 mark in the official ratings. Gold Cup favourite Silviniaco Conti is currently rated 174 so Coneygree is certainly entitled to an each-way chance.

Coneygree is a half-brother to former Hennessy Gold Cup winner Carruthers and is a natural jumper and dour stayer. Carruthers is due to contest the Midlands National at Uttoxeter on Saturday in the same colours.

Coneygree will be having only the tenth race of his career when he lines up in the Gold Cup but he seems better than ever after his enforced break. No novice has won the Gold Cup since Captain Christy in 1974 so Bradstock and his team will be under no illusions about the task facing their stable star.

Nico De Boinville, successful on the horse for his first two starts this season, has been booked for the ride on Friday. He enjoyed his first festival victory on Whisper for Nicky Henderson in last year’s Coral Cup, holding off a power-packed finish from Tony McCoy and Get Me Out Of Here by a short-head.

Mar 10, 758 days ago

The Giant Bolster chasing Gold Cup glory

The Giant Bolster chasing Gold Cup glory

Trainer David Bridgwater is convinced that stable star The Giant Bolster can finish in the  money for a remarkable fourth consecutive season in Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The ten-year-old son of Black Sam Bellamy reserves his best for the big race every season but is freely available at 33-1. He has won five of his 33 races but it has been his performances in defeat which have made him one of the most popular chasers in training.

Bridgwater has always believed that The Giant Bolster was a real talent and has run him at every Cheltenham festival since 2010. He first appeared as a 200-1 outsider in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle where he ran on into sixth place behind Peddlers Cross. The following year he was back for the RSA Chase but unseated Rodi Greene at the fifth fence.

Undeterred, Bridgwater brought him back in 2012 for the Gold Cup where he started a 50-1 chance with Tom Scudamore in the saddle. He moved to the front with two to jump and only Tony McCoy on Synchronised was able to deny him a shock victory. The following season he finished fourth to Bobs Worth, after which he became increasingly disappointing.

He was finally fitted with a hood and visor for the Argento Chase last year and bounced back to form to beat Rocky Creek by seven lengths. That set him up perfectly for last year’s Gold Cup where he appeared to run in snatches, eventually running on strongly up the hill to be beaten less than a length in third behind Lord Windermere.

Bridgwater dispensed with the visor at Wetherby in November but he didn’t show any sparkle before running in only a visor at Haydock later that month. He was in contention until losing his place four out behind Gold Cup favourite Silviniaco Conti. His final Cheltenham prep race was in January where he was seven and a half lengths away in fourth behind Many Clouds. Bridgwater is adamant that he can reverse the form with a stronger pace on Friday and reward each-way support.

Jockey Tom Cannon has struck up a good partnership with the horse although Tom Scudamore has ridden him in the last three Gold Cups. Scudamore believes that he may well have won last year had he not received a hefty bump at the second last fence. Bridgwater is also yet to decide on whether or not the horse will be wearing any headgear this year. The Giant Bolster may have been running mostly for the bookmakers in the past but there will be plenty of punters cheering him up the Cheltenham hill this year.

Mar 10, 758 days ago

Johns Spirit fancied for Ryanair Chase

Johns Spirit fancied for Ryanair Chase

Jockey Richie McLernon was delighted to be given the ride on Jonjo O’Neill’s Gold Cup hope Holywell last week but he is equally excited about another big-race ride. He partners Johns Spirit in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on Thursday, a solid 10-1 shot with a fine track record.

The son of Gold Well has been partnered by McLernon to five of his seven victories with champion jockey Tony McCoy the only other rider to score on the eight-year-old. He first ran at the festival in 2013 as a novice where a bad mistake four out cost him any chance behind Rajdhani Express.

He was then tried over three miles on a couple of occasions but failed to get home and was dropped back to two and a half miles in October the same year. He was confidently ridden by McLernon and quickened through the field to lead with two to jump, going on to win comfortably by three and a half lengths.

O’Neill then sent him back to Cheltenham for the Paddy Power Gold Cup where he defied a 10lbs rise in the handicap to hold Colour Squadron by three-quarters of a length. The handicapper pushed him up a further 9lbs for the Stewart Family Gold Cup where he finished a respectable fifth. He ran well to finish fourth off the same mark at last year’s festival behind the well-handicapped Ballynagour.

Johns Spirit again showed his liking for Cheltenham when winning first time out in October and put up a career-best effort when narrowly failing to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup for a second year running. He led over the last but was beaten a head by Caid Du Berlais in a driving finish.

The gelding’s most recent start was in the three-mile King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day but he weakened from the third last fence to finish sixth. He reverts to his best trip for the Ryanair Chase and looks set to get his favoured good ground.

Johns Spirit could be joined in the Ryanair by stable companion Taquin Du Seuil, winner of last season’s JLT Novices’ Chase. He was being trained for the Gold Cup this year but has failed to convince his trainer that he truly stay three miles. If he gets the go-ahead, he will be the mount of Tony McCoy who  has ridden him to all seven victories since arriving from France in 2012.

Mar 9, 759 days ago

Djakadam popular in Gold Cup betting

Djakadam popular in Gold Cup betting

Each-way punters have been keen on the chances of Djakadam in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in recent days with his price cut to 9-1 from 16-1. If Trainer Willie Mullins has a good week, the lightly-raced gelding could start second favourite to Silviniaco Conti on Friday.

The French-bred six-year-old will be having only his sixth race over the larger obstacles when he lines up against the best chasers in Britain and Ireland. He won twice at Leopardstown last season to earn a trip to the Cheltenham festival where he ran in the JLT Novices’ Chase. Paul Townend was in the saddle with Ruby Walsh preferring the chances of Felix Yonger. Djakadam made a couple of minor mistakes but was still travelling well when falling four from home.

Despite his inexperience, the son of Saint Des Saints was aimed at the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November. He was backed down to 5-1 favourite off a handicap mark of 142 and Walsh moved him into contention on the second circuit. He came under pressure with four to jump and weakened into eighth place behind Many Clouds. He looks to have a difficult task on that evidence as he was receiving plenty of weight from both the winner and Smad Place in fifth place.

He did not reappear until January in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park where he put up his most impressive performance to date. Visibility was poor but he emerged from the mist going strongly for Walsh before drawing clear to win by eight lengths. The going was heavy that day so there can be no stamina concerns.

Mullins also has On His Own and Boston Bob entered for the Gold Cup. The former was runner-up to Lord Windermere last year but has not shown the same sparkle this season. His best run was when chasing home Road To Riches in the Lexus Chase in December but he was only sixth behind Carlingford Lough last time out.

Boston Bob finished ahead of him in fourth place, staying on past beaten rivals in the home straight. The son of Bob Back looked set to win the RSA Chase at the festival in 2013 only to fall at the final fence. He was only sixth in the Ryanair Chase last season but made amends with a victory at Aintree in April. Silviniaco Conti remains favourite at 100-30 with Holywell and Many Clouds next best at 8-1.

Mar 9, 759 days ago

Aux Ptits Soins tops Coral Cup market

Aux Ptits Soins tops Coral Cup market

The Coral Cup is one of the toughest handicaps for punters to solve at the Cheltenham festival. The last winning favourite was Xenophon for Tony Martin and Mick Fitzgerald back in 2003. Of the last ten winners, only Naiad du Misselot in 2008 returned in single figures.

The horse that has grabbed the punters attention this year is the Paul Nicholls-trained Aux Ptits Soins, a French-bred five-year-old yet to race in Britain. The grey is by Saint Des Saints out of a Turgeon mare and has not raced since winning a hurdle at Auteuil in September. He has been reported to have been working well with last year’s County Hurdle winner Lac Fontana recently and is set to receive 12lbs from his stable companion on Wednesday.

Activial has also been well supported in the ante-post market following his staying-on third to Violet Dancer in last month’s Betfair Hurdle. The form of that race received a boost with the victory of Ebony Express in the Imperial Cup on Saturday, brought down two from home at Newbury.

Trainer Harry Fry has been looking forward to stepping Activial up in trip since he finished third in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot. He is one of a number of good rides at the meeting for Noel Fehily, rumoured to be in contention for the job of retained rider for JP McManus next season.

Tony Martin’s Quick Jack features prominently in the markets for this race, the County Hurdle and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle. The trainer was highly critical of the handicapper for giving him a rating of 136 after he was beaten in last year’s valuable Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown. He has run only sparingly since, winning at Galway and finishing a close third in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket.

Hardly a race will go by at this meeting without a Mullins runner among the market leaders and his most fancied representative here could be Arbre De Vie. He has no fewer than five festival entries as he bids to follow up an easy victory at Warwick last month.

Nicky Henderson won this race last year with Whisper and his best chance could lie with Bear’s Affair. 7lb claimer Freddie Mitchell has ridden the eight-year-old into second place in competitive handicaps at Aintree and Wincanton on his last two starts. The Lambourn trainer also has Lyvius and Hammersly Lake entered for the two miles and five furlong contest.

Mar 6, 762 days ago

2015 Cheltenham Festival Preview

2015 Cheltenham Festival Preview

One of the highlights of the racing calendar, this year’s Cheltenham Festival takes place between 10th and 13th March 2015. Over the four days over half a billion pounds in bets will be placed and almost 250,000 punters will eat 8,000 sticky toffee puddings and drink over 230,000 pints of Guinness.

We look forward to four days of top racing action at Cheltenham.

The big races

There’s a terrific battle to look forward to on the opening day of the Festival as popular winners, a Cheltenham legend and the new kid on the block meet in the Champion Hurdle.

Last year’s winner Jezki has failed to win any of his three starts this season although he went into last year’s race having been beaten by rivals and overturned the form book on that occasion. The two time winner Hurricane Fly will be back for another crack at the Champion Hurdle having won three Grade One races this season and it would be a great story if the aging horse could nab another title.

There’s been plenty of ante-post interest in The New One who many expected to win last year before he was hampered by a faller towards the end of the race. However, the horse to beat is Faugheen who has eight wins under his belt including a classy performance in last year’s Neptune.

Sire de Grugy and Sprinter Sacre renew their rivalry in Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase while Thursday’s World Hurdle looks like a tough race to call, especially considering last year’s winner More Of That has been ruled out for the season. The Paul Nicholls trained Saphir du Rheu booked his ticket with victory in the Cleeve Hurdle on Trials Day although the value in the market appears to be elsewhere.

On his day Zarkander can jump like a dream but there are question marks about his staying ability while Rock on Ruby is now ten years old but has finished third or better in 22 of his 24 races. A good bet at longer odds is Briar Hill who won the Champion Bumper a couple of years ago and appears to be getting back to his best after fracturing an eye socket in a fall in the Albert Bartlett last year.

Last year’s Gold Cup went all the way to the wire with Lord Windermere eventually winning by a short head. The champion returns to defend his crown but will face a strong challenge in the form of Silviniaco Conti who has looked a likely contender in each of the last two years.

The Paul Nicholls horse was travelling well when he fell three out in 2013 and finished fourth in the Gold Cup in 2014. Holywell and Road to Riches are likely to be the closest challengers in the betting.

Plenty of outsiders to get your teeth into

There’s little in racing more exciting than hearing the famous Cheltenham Roar as the Festival gets under way with the Supreme Novices Hurdle. The exciting Douvan is a worthy favourite but I like the chances of L’ami Serge who has shown great form for the Henderson yard and oozed class in his victory at the Gerry Feilden.

Ptit Zig fell at the ninth in the Ascot Chase last month and so didn’t really get the chance to show what he could do. However, it was pretty much his first mistake over fences and on his day could go well. He’s certainly one to watch in the JLT Novices Chase. I also like the chances of the impressive Peace and Co in the Triumph Hurdle.

A Mares Hurdle without the imperious Quevega will be something to get used to but Willie Mullins has a couple of great horses who should continue his remarkable record in this race. Annie Power wouldn’t look out of place in the World Hurdle and is the odds-on favourite while stablemate Glens Melody should also run.

Cheltenham Festival Betting

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