The Cheltenham Festival is jump racing’s four days in the sun and Prestbury Park is the arena that allows the sport’s equine superstars to do battle. Most describe it as the pinnacle of the racing calendar and the high-quality action never fails to deliver.
The magical Festival has brought us so many unbelievable moments through the years and whether it’s an ultra-competitive handicap or one of the graded races, it always leaves you wanting more. 2018’s edition looks no different, with many races set to be stacked with quality and intrigue.
Here’s a preview of the Festival’s four championship races.
Faugheen’s recent bomb out in Ireland has left a clear market leader in Buveur D’Air. Nicky Henderson’s high-class hurdler is well fancied at 8/15 to retain his Champion Hurdle crown, having won it so impressively last year. He is two from two this season and is very much the one to beat.
Despite running so poorly last time at Leopardstown, Faugheen’s connections are to continue with plans for another tilt at the Champion Hurdle. The 2015 winner is 5/1 to reclaim his prize, but there must be serious doubts about his participation and he may be worth discounting on current evidence.
Instead, Henderson’s other runner My Tent Or Yours looks to offer solid each-way value at 12/1. He loves Cheltenham, having finished second in three of the last four Champion Hurdles and he won the International in December on the ground that didn’t really suit. He should go well again at a decent each-way price.
Despite having a strong market leader in Altior (5/4), the Champion Chase looks a race in which many have questions to answer. Doubts still remain over the participation of Nicky Henderson’s stable star after his injury and so at such skinny odds, the value lies elsewhere.
His nearest market rival Politologue is far more solid, having already won three times this season including the Tingle Creek. He has gone from strength to strength this season and could give Paul Nicholls a record-equalling sixth win in the race at 3/1.
This looks to be the most open race. Many of the market principles appear to be closely matched on recent performances and plenty have questions to answer. Sam Spinner’s impressive performance at Ascot last time catapulted him to the head of the market and he is a horse on the upgrade. However, at 4/1 there is perhaps better value to be had.
Namely, Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae who has Festival form having won the Coral Cup last year. He is lightly raced for an eight-year-old and his performance behind Apple’s Jade at Leopardstown last time was very encouraging. He should go well in a very competitive race at around 6/1.
King George winner Might Bite is the obvious starting point in the blue riband event. The son of Scorpion did what he had to at Kempton and now all roads lead to the Gold Cup. He will never have encountered a distance as far as this however and while he is very much the one to beat, there’ll be plenty who fancy Colin Tizzard’s Native River.
He is yet to run this season but is scheduled to reappear at Newbury next month and is proven to get the lung-busting trip that catches so many out. He ran admirably in the race twelve months ago and will arrive a much fitter horse this time around. At 10/1 could be a great early bet to go one better this year.