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This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA

by Ivy Joy Zalavarria-Trillana

Britain’s glorious Gloucestershire countryside will once again play host to four days of brilliant action with the Cheltenham Festival (13th-16th March). The Festival contains some of the most important horse racing events in steeplechasing and hurdling, including the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. While none of these races get the worldwide attention of, say, the Kentucky Derby or Melbourne Cup, Cheltenham has nonetheless a high concentration of top class races. Of the 28 races held at the Festival, 14 are Grade 1 races.

Still questions over Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle

There is, of course, always plenty of intrigue in the lead up to Festival. Much of the talk has been about the form, or lack thereof, of Faugheen. The 10-year-old was seen as one of the all-time great hurdlers for much of his career. He was injury plagued for the last couple of seasons, but he came back with a win to start the national hunt season in November. Faugheen has had a rough time of it in his last two races though, coming second in one and pulling up in another. He currently sits at odds of 6/1 (+600) for the Champion Hurdle (13th March). Most bettors are plumping for last year’s winner, Buveur D’Air, at odds of 4/7 (-175.00).

Altior is the horse to beat at the Festival

The Queen Mother Champion Chase (14th March) has also had plenty of focus this year. It will feature arguably the best horse in Britain at the moment – Altior. Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old is nothing short of a marvel. He has won his last 12 races, including two at the Cheltenham Festival, and did not miss a beat when making his season comeback in early February. He is priced at 8/11 (-137.50) for the Champion Chase. Watch out for Min at 3/1 (+300) though, a tough competitor who will push Altior all the way.

The Stayers’ Hurdle (15th March) is the only feature race at Cheltenham without a clear-cut favourite at the moment. Supasundae, priced at 4/1 (+400) is the current market leader, but that could all change as the Festival gets closer. Yanworth, Sam Spinner and Penhill could all be installed as starting favourites for the race. The Stayers’ Hurdle looks like a tough one to call, so check out expert last minute Cheltenham betting tips to get the whole picture.

Gold Cup shaping up to be three-way battle

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA

The Gold Cup looks all set to be a thriller this year. There are three major players at the top of the odds at the moment – Might Bite 4/1 (+400), Native River and Sizing John both 6/1 (+600). The latter won the race last year, whereas Might Bite won the King George VI Chase in December. Native River has just re-entered the frame, after winning the Denman Chase in mid-February. He was also third in the Gold Cup last year, but certainly has it in him to land the biggest win of his career on 16th March.

Outside of the four feature races, there are plenty of other interesting stories taking shape at Festival. We will perhaps get to see the birth of a new generation of national hunt stars, with the likes of Laurina, Getabird, Footpad, Samcro and Kalashnikov all ready to perform for the first time at Cheltenham. Everything is pointing towards a vintage Festival.

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