Cheltenham Festival Picks: Ones to Watch at the Greatest Show on Turf
Ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, which gets underway on March 12, RedArmyBet marks your card, picking out some of the horses to look out for during this four day racing extravaganza…
The Cheltenham festival is often described as the greatest show on turf and with the top jockeys, trainers and owners all descending on Gloucestershire for four days of high octane, top class racing, featuring some of the greatest horses in the sport, few would argue.
After months of anticipation, hard work and preparation the famous Cheltenham roar will once again herald the beginning of what, for many, is the highlight of the racing year as the great and the good come together to pit their wits against one of the most demanding tracks on the planet.
So here’s a look at just some of the key races over the four day festival and who to look out for.
Day One: Tuesday 12th March
This year’s opener looks like it could be a pretty even affair as a number of contenders line-up with a decent shout of the spoils. Angels Breath, a 5.00* chance, arrives on the back of an impressive win at Ascot in December, though how much you can take from just one run in a Grade 2 listed race is debatable given some of the quality on show here.
With victories at Cheltenham in December, albeit off a mark of just 129 – and another impressive victory in the rescheduled Betfair Hurdle at Ascot – it’s hardly surprising that Al Dancer is currently the 4.00* favourite and a mark of 152 puts him among the ratings profile of previous Supreme winners.
Meanwhile, Paul Nicholls’ Grand Sancy looks to be the most appealing of those outside of the top two with the 10-time champion trainer in top form ahead of the festival and this 5-year-old promises much having won the Kingwell Hurdle by beating the 154-rated Sceau Royal and more than a tempting each way chance at 10.00*.
Day Two: Wednesday 13th March
The most anticipated race of Day Two is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which sees the best two-mile chasers around battle it out to claim a prize won by some of the greatest names in racing down the years.
Without doubt, this year all eyes will be on Altior with the reigning champion currently the shortest priced favourite of the festival at 1.36*. Nicky Henderson’s 8-year old superstar is the best jumper around right now and is unbeaten in 17 races over hurdles and fences as well as being the winner of this race by seven lengths from Min in 2018, and will be bidding to win at the Festival for the fourth year in a row.
For that reason it’s difficult to oppose Altior, but with Min showing good form over the winter and winning both starts, another two-horse-race looks to be on the cards and you can get 7.00* for the tables to be turned this time around however unlikely that might seem, so backing Min without the favourite might be the best chance in terms of value.
Day Three: Thursday 14th March
Arriving on the back of a 12-length victory in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham last month – a win which made it four-from-four following handicap victories at Aintree, Haydock and Ascot – it’s no surprise to see Paisley Park head the market as 2.63* favourite.
Whether any of those lining up against Paisley Park can stop this impressive run of form is open to debate but one of those which could be in with a chance is Black Op who travelled well here in the Cleeve before fading during the closing stages.
Last year’s winner, Penhill, will not be defending his title this year after picking up an injury on the gallops though another Willie Mullins trained horse, Faugheen, could just be of interest at 5.00* while each way interest comes in the form of Kilbricken Storm at 13.00*.
Day Four: Friday 15th March
One of the most prestigious titles in racing is decided on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival in the form of the Gold Cup and always promises to provide the greatest spectacle with plenty to look forward to this year, too.
Probably one of the most difficult of the big four races to predict, Presenting Percy looks to be the horse that everyone will have to beat and despite only one win over the hurdles this year can currently be backed at 4.50* even though his previous two festival wins have come on the back of a busier autumn and winter campaign.
In contrast Clan des Obeaux’s preparations appear to be nicely on track with success in the rescheduled Betfair Denman Chase followed by a win at Kempton – and although yet to win in Cheltenham in four attempts – there is little evidence to suggest he won’t be in the mix here.
Native River clearly has to be taken into consideration on what could be quicker ground than usual and Might Bite has form good enough to win the race while Thistlecrack, who finished second in the King George, has a tremendous record at Cheltenham with the 11-year old looking to prove his doubters wrong at an eye-catching 15.00*.
*all odds are subject to change