The Cheltenham Festival is one of the highlights of the National Hunt season and plenty of punters will be looking forward to Prestbury Park’s fiercely anticipated four-day event. Every year, racing fans from all over the world travel to Gloucester in a bid to see the best horses, jockeys and trainers go up against each other in some of the industry’s most lucrative racedays.
TUESDAY: Arkle Chase
A tossup between the Arkle and Champion Hurdle but the former may turn out to be the more exciting spectacle this year. FOOTPAD is an 11/8 chance at the time of writing and his form is very strong. Trainer Willie Mullins has a solid record at the Festival and Footpad could be the one to beat. He has won each of his previous three races and he romped home in the Leopardstown Arkle Chase earlier this month.
However, punters have been nibbling at SAINT CALVADOS. Unbeaten over fences, he could push Footpad close if he is at his brilliant best. Harry Whittingham’s stable star also has an entry for the JLT Novices Chase but opting for the Arkle on the opening day may be the best bet.
Dan Skelton’s NORTH HILL HARVEY was once regarded as a top contender but his form took a hit at Sandown and Warwick. He was beaten 39 lengths by Saint Calvados at the start of February and it would take a brave man to predict a reversal in standings at Cheltenham.
TIP: Footpad to win the Arkle
WEDNESDAY: Queen Mother Champion Chase
ALTIOR, one of the most versatile horses in training, will look to defend his Arkle title after winning the race in 2017. He had to dig deep to fend off his rivals after Charbel, leading the race with two fences left to jump, fell whilst travelling strongly. Since then, Altior has won both of his races; he was excellent when put under pressure by Politologue at Newbury in mid-February, eventually winning by four lengths.
Meanwhile, MIN – beaten by Altior in the Supreme Novices Hurdle back in 2016 – looks stronger than ever and he could get his revenge next month. To put his recent victory at Leopardstown into perspective, Min finished 12 lengths clear of 2017 Champion Chase winner SPECIAL TIARA. On that form alone, he has a fantastic chance.
Tipsters will be offering their thoughts and betting advice on the Cheltenham Festival ahead of March’s meeting and most will agree that the Champion Chase is one of the hardest races to predict. Some will be opting for Altior, others will be opting for Min, Douvan or Politologue – it really is wide open.
TIP: Min to win the Champion Chase
THURSDAY: Ryanair Chase
In recent years, the Ryanair Chase has blossomed into Thursday’s showpiece event. UN DE SCEAUX has won two Festival races – the Arkle and the Ryanair Chase – and he could defend his crown in 2018. A real favourite with racing fans, Un De Sceaux has won 15 of his 20 races over fences and it would take a brave man to back against him here.
FOX NORTON, the last horse to beat Un De Sceaux outright, is the second favourite for this race and he certainly has the quality to emerge victorious. Colin Tizzard’s yard isn’t in the best of form right now but he loves it around Prestbury Park and is well worth considering for this race.
Looking further down the betting, TOP NOTCH and WAITING PATIENTLY are also right in the mix on recent form. The latter held off the legendary Cue Card in the Ascot Chase and has been touted as a potential Ryanair candidate. This could be the highlight of the meeting if everybody performs well…
TIP: Un De Sceaux to win the Ryanair Chase
FRIDAY: Cheltenham Gold Cup
This is the race that everybody wants to win. SIZING JOHN romped home in his first Gold Cup appearance to win in 2017 and the Jessica Harrington-trained thoroughbred could go close again this time around. He struggled to inspire confidence last time out though, falling 32 lengths behind ROAD TO RESPECT in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase and punters may be tempted to steer clear based on that run.
Road to Respect is another candidate but OUR DUKE might be the one to back here. He dug deep to fend Presenting Percy off on his seasonal reappearance and he should come on for that success. But both he and Sizing John may struggle to keep up with MIGHT BITE if he is handed an early lead.
Nicky Henderson’s stable star has his quirks but a sublime round of jumping at Kempton Park may silence any lingering doubts over his ability. Currently 4/1 with most high street bookmakers for Gold Cup glory, he will take some stopping – he already has a King George VI Chase win to his name and he could flourish at Cheltenham.
TIP: Might Bite to win the Gold Cup
OTHER: Horses To Keep An Eye On
Much of the focus has been on Gordon Elliott’s SAMRCO in recent months – will he run in the Supreme Novices Hurdle on the opening day or head to the Ballymore Novices Hurdle on Wednesday? At this moment in time, it looks like Samcro will run in the latter and punters will be watching his status closely. He’s won six out of six in his short novice career and his Grade 1 triumph at Leopardstown last time out was spine-tingling.
Find out the Timeform view on the likes of Samcro, Faugheen and Footpad after their runs at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown last weekend > https://t.co/MtyOYQ3vhO pic.twitter.com/XbCNAJ7J68
— Timeform (@Timeform) February 8, 2018
Furthermore, the well-fancied SUPASUNDAE will run in this year’s Stayers Hurdle and that could be his race to lose if he emulates his latest effort. The 2017 Coral Cup winner won the Irish Champion Hurdle at the start of February and he is now the favourite for Thursday’s three-mile slog. With talented jockey Robbie Power likely to be on board, another major scalp could be on the cards.
CAUSE OF CAUSES, tipped for Grand National glory this year after his second in the Aintree showpiece in 2017, is hunting a fourth Festival win and he is one of the leading contenders in the Cross Country Chase. Write him off at your peril; he is as versatile as they come and it would be foolish to back against him at Prestbury Park.