It is nearly upon us. The most electrifying meeting in sports entertainment. The Cheltenham Festival. From Tuesday to Friday, Prestbury Park will host spine tingling finishes, fairy tale stories and some heart-breaking moments as well. As usual, bookmakers will be clamouring to attract new custom, with the casual fans their primary target. Attempts will be made to lure in the new clientele through the means of attractive concessions and bonuses, and the more seasoned bettor can take advantage of these offers. But what is the point in having great promotions if you can’t find a winner? Hopefully we can steer you in the right direction.
There have been some superstar winners of this contest in the last three years, and those winners all came into the race rated 155. This year, the level doesn’t seem quite so high, with the top rated horse Ballyandy. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has had 10 starts, which definitely isn’t the usual profile for a runner in this race, but he looked better than ever last time out when winning a Grade Three Handicap at Newbury in cosy style. His race hardiness and class will surely stand him in good stance against some lesser raced rivals and the fact that the horse won at the festival last year in the Champion Bumper is a huge plus.
The market leader is Melon. Willie Mullins has had a strong hold on this race in recent times, and clearly thinks plenty of the son of Medicean. A flat winner in France, the horse has only had a solitary run over hurdles, but he fairly bolted up at Leopardstown, winning by 10 lengths. Horse clearly has a huge engine but the only concern would be his lack of big race experience and his jumping at speed at Cheltenham. Wasn’t fluent at more than one of his hurdles in Ireland and will need to have brushed up on his technique in the 6 weeks he’s had off.
Ballyandy may not be the sexiest horse in the line-up, but he is the most solid. Currently the highest rated horse in the field, he seems like a continual improver, and in a relatively small field, looks a cracking each-way bet at odds of +450 with Bet365
This looks like a one horse race on paper, with Nicky Henderson’s Altior heading the betting at a best price of 1.28. It is simply impossible to see past this next potential superstar, and he should win easily assuming there are no big jumping errors made. The 7 year old son of High Chaparral is rated 19lbs better than his nearest rival, and justifiably so, as he is a previous festival winner and is 9 from 9 over timber.
The bet has to be on distances when the bookies open their markets. Altior should win the race by 6 or more lengths and will then go on to compete in the Champion Chase next year.
The highlight of day one – The Champion Hurdle. The top two mile hurdlers in the country rattle around the course at close to 40mph, negotiating 8 hurdles before climbing to the line. This year’s renewal looks slightly weak, and very open, with the market leader being available at odds of +300 .
Yanworth takes the mantle of being favourite for the showpiece, but he may be of more interest to in running bettors. The horse always looks like he needs further than 2 miles, and comes off the bridle before winning. Wincanton is a speed track and wouldn’t have suited last time out and the prospect of a strong gallop on a stiffer track will definitely play into his hands. He is likely to trade bigger in running but should be staying on strongly under Barry Geraghty.
Moon Racer is the interesting horse in the race at +900 with Bet365, Ladbrokes and Coral. The 8 year old Saffron Walden gelding was eligible for other races at the festival, but chose to come for the Champion Hurdle, so connections must think he has a fair shot. His career has been blighted by injuries, with just 6 starts to the horse’s name, but he has seen the winning enclosure on 5 of those runs, including when winning the Champion Bumper back in 2015 at the festival. Has a fantastic engine and seems to go well on good ground. Likes the course and could still have significant improvement left, even at the age of 8. In a year where the race doesn’t look vintage, this is a fantastic opportunity for the Pipe’s to scoop the top prize on day one.
13:30 Cheltenham: Ballyandy – Each Way
Tuesday 14th March
14:10 Cheltenham: Altior to win by 6+ lengths
Tuesday 14th March
15:30 Cheltenham: Moon Racer – Each Way
Tuesday 14th March
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