It’s known the world over as one of the most historic and prestigious horse racing events on the calendar. Running for over a century, we are, of course, talking about the Cheltenham Festival. And guess what – it’s just around the corner.
It’s the festival that has it all and this year’s event is no different. Set to take place from March 10th to 13th, it’s four days packed with some of the most talked about races of the entire year. In fact, aside from the epic Grand National at Aintree, there’s no other meeting on the European calendar that tops Cheltenham.
So what do we have to look forward to? Well, there are 28 races over four days and there’s simply no way we have enough information on all the runners to give you a rundown of each race. So what we’ve decided is to have a look at the biggest races and, although it’s early days yet, who the favorites are.
Champion Hurdle – Day 1
At 3.30 on the first day, the real racing begins. That’s when the Champion Hurdle takes place, and racehorse owner J.P. McManus has his chance to land his fourth Champion Hurdle in a row. Last year his horse Espoir D’Allen won at 20/1, but unfortunately he suffered an injury that led to his passing away during the close season.
J.P. has high hopes though for his horse Epatante who, trained by Nicky Henderson, is becoming quite the favorite among bookmakers. Henderson also has another horse in the mix in Pentland Hills, who is the 2019 Triumph Hurdle winner.
The race is wide open this year with several horses all expected to come close. We have Irish horse Ballyandy as an outside bet, and the Willie Mullins-trained Saldier, Sharjah and Klassical Dream are all in with a decent chance of placing, at the very least.
Envoi Allen and Honeysuckle are the other two most likely contenders. Their owners may feel like these younger horses have a real opportunity to win big, due to there not being a truly dominant horse in this year’s race.
Queen Mother Champion Chase – Day 2
This is the highlight of day 2 and another hotly anticipated race. Everyone will, of course, be watching Altior, who is looking to win this race for a third year in a row. The fact that the ten-year-old was defeated over obstacles for the first time ever last November will give his challengers heart.
Those challengers include Defi Du Seuil, who won the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, and the Willie Mullins trained Chacun Pour. Of the two, Chacun Pour looks the most likely to push Altior, having raced well in Ireland particularly at the Dublin Festival.
Ryanair Chase – Day 3
The race named for a budget airline shouldn’t really be such a prestigious one, but who are we to argue with the punters. Last year’s winner Frodon arrives at Cheltenham in top form. It was a hugely popular win, with jockey Bryony Frost being the first female jockey to win the Chase.
Some expected Defi Du Seuil to race, but with the horse now entered in the Queen Mother Champion Chase it looks like Frodon is the only local horse with a real chance. Willie Mullins (he’s everywhere) has a good chance with his horses Un De Sceaux and Min who are both in good form, with Min in particular expected to come out from Altior’s shadow as the season progresses.
Stayers Hurdle – Day 3
Willie Mullins trained horses won this race in both 2017 and 2018, before a local horse by the name of Paisley Park took it last year. The horse is in great form so far this season and is looking a fairly safe bet for a second win on the bounce.
But this is horse racing and as you know, anything can happen. The likely challengers for this race will be Summerville Boy, who Paisley Park beat by a length and a quarter in the trial race in January. The ground will be better suited to Summerville Boy this time around so we can expect a good race.
Other contenders include If the Cap Fits, who won the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle at Aintree last season, Benie Des Dieux, who won the Mares Hurdle in 2018, and Penhill who, after a long layoff, could be due a big race and is a nice option for an each way bet.
Cheltenham Gold Cup – Day 4
And last but by no means least, we come to the jewel of Cheltenham, the Gold Cup. Odds for the Gold Cup are constantly shifting, with Al Boum Photo currently the favorite to win for the second year in a row. But it’s an incredibly open race this year with several horses expected to race well.
The first prize of £350,000 is not the biggest prize on offer in the UK, and nowhere near the money on offer at The Pegasus, but the prestige of lifting that Gold Cup is priceless. It’s the pinnacle of a horse’s career and so we expect each and every entrant to go all out to come home first.
Al Boum Photo’s stablemate, Kemboy looks like a good bet and is garnering quite a lot of attention from early gamblers. Delta Work, trained by Gordon Elliott, has won five chases, four of which are Grade 1.
Presenting Percy is a horse that will forever be remembered for finishing 33 lengths behind the winner in last season’s race. As it turned out, he was lame and did well to finish the race at all. This season he finished a creditable 3rd at Punchestown, but he still has a bit of work to do to catch up with his counterparts. Could be a nice outside bet and you’ll likely get pretty good odds.
Other contenders include Monalee, Santini, Bristol De Mai, and Lostintranslation. While these horses could easily place, we’re not sure they have what it takes to win. But we have been wrong before. Whatever happens, it will certainly be an interesting race.
So there you have it. Five incredible races over four days of racing at one of the oldest race events in the United Kingdom. It should be an interesting festival and one that’s well worth watching.