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UK and Ireland horse racing meets taking place throughout the winter often provide bettors with something of an insight into what might eventually play out at the famous Cheltenham Festival in March. The past months have been jam-packed with a host of standout races, and many trainers are looking to get their prized assets into their best shape ahead of travelling to the South-West of England. Such races are regularly the last time in which we see some of the Cheltenham favorites before the Festival itself, meaning that we can potentially learn a significant amount from how runners and riders perform.
There has already been a significant amount of movement in the Cheltenham ante-post markets as a result of recent races, with some runners now challenging the favorites thanks to surprise wins, while others have slipped down the pecking order after disappointing runs. Meanwhile, some trainers are still deciding on which Cheltenham race best suits their horses or even as to whether they will skip the Festival completely. For those still considering who to back at Cheltenham this year, let’s take a look at some of the standout results from the winter racing schedule.
Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite has seen his odds for the Cheltenham Gold Cup drop to around 20/1 with the majority of bookmakers following a disappointing run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. In a race that was eventually won by the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux, the 10-year-old made a mistake on the 13th, eventually being overtaken by the likes of Thistlecrack and Native River, among others. Meanwhile, having won the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last year, Presenting Percy is now the favorite Gold Cup favorite, with the 8-year-old having shown his class in winning the Grade 2 John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park back in January, his first run since March 2018. In fact, Presenting Percy has now won four of his last five outings.
Perhaps the biggest shock during the winter season was Verdana Blue getting the better of his stablemate Buveur D’Air in the Unibet Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Just a shoulder separated the duo, however, meaning that perhaps not too much should be read into this, especially as Buveur D’Air recovered to win the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February, showing that the 8-year-old should still be considered among the favorites for the Champion Hurdle on the opening day at Cheltenham in what would be a third consecutive win in the race. The likes of Sharjah and 2018 runner-up Melon are the other leading candidates here, along with Irish Champion Hurdle winner Apple’s Jade (see below). In what is likely to be one of the standout races of the entire Festival, be sure to check out odds and promos your favorite Cheltenham betting apps offer before backing your favorite.
Gordon Elliott’s Apple’s Jade has four wins to his name since November 2018, with a run in the Stayers Hurdle still being conserved as a result. Last year’s winner Penhill remains among the favorites, despite having been convincingly beaten by Faugheen in the Irish Champion Stayers Hurdle at Leopardstown in his last outing in April. Willie Mullins’ Faugheen has not been on top form over recent months, falling two out in the Christmas Hurdle at the end of December. It certainly appears likely that Apple’s Jade will be winning one of the feature races on the opening day of the Festival, however it remains to be seen as to which one it will be.
Having won the recent Matchbook Clarence House Chase at Ascot, reigning Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Altior remains the odds-on favorite at Cheltenham this year, having also won at both Sandown and Kempton at the end of 2018. The 9-year-old has not suffered a defeat of any kind since April 2015, having won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase over the years at Cheltenham, too. The likes of Footpad and Min are likely to be his closest competitors this time around, despite trainer Willie Mullins having not pushed the former too much this season.
A small number of other horses have really brought themselves into Cheltenham contention over recent times, including Champ, who won the Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury at the end of 2018. The Nicky Henderson-trained 7-year-old is now the favorite for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, ahead of the likes of Angels Breath and Battleoverdoyen. Meanwhile, despite having come unstuck at Kempton on Boxing Day, Santini remains the favorite to win the RSA Chase this year, with the likes of Delta Work and OK Corral likely to challenge also. Finally, Lostintranslation won on Cheltenham Trials day, with the Colin Tizzard youngster now being a good outside bet for the JLT Novices Chase.
The thrills and spills of the Cheltenham Festival are fast approaching, so be sure to check out all of the relevant information surrounding the meeting that is available, before backing your favorite runners and riders.
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