There aren’t many bigger race meetings in the world than the Cheltenham Festival.
The United States racing fans often look forward to the Breeders’ Cup and the Kentucky Derby (read more about it here). Besides those events, in the United Kingdom and for lovers of National Hunt racing, it’s the Cheltenham Festival that is the pinnacle.
Every year in March, the leading horses and trainers in the world of jumps head to the Cotswolds to win the most prestigious races of the season. Cheltenham is the course where legends of National Hunt racing are born, and the festival will be no different.
These are three of the horses that gamblers should be following with the meeting in mind.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is considered the blue ribbon event on the National Hunt circuit and is the one race that all jockeys start off the season wanting to win. The Grand National matches it in terms of audience attention, but the jockeys always claim that the Gold Cup is the big one for the season.
That will be no difference, as the premier race will take place on the final day of the meeting. Al Boum Photo will be looking for a third straight success in this race for trainer Willie Mullins, but there will be a new challenger for that crown in the form of Champ.
The eight-year-old has been in exceptional form since making his racing debut in 2017. Since then, he has won nine from 13 starts. Last season was a memorable one for the Nicky Henderson-trained horse as he won at the Cheltenham Festival for the first time.
That success came in a competitive RSA Chase, where he beat Minella Indo by a length. This will be a step up in quality, but the eight-year-old looks ready.
The Big Breakaway
The horse that could be best placed to take Champ’s RSA Chase title could be The Big Breakaway. The five-year-old has been progressing for trainer Colin Tizzard and will be looking for a first win at the Cheltenham Festival. Course form so far has seen The Big Breakaway win once and lose once. However, his first win at the famous course came in mid-November, which means that he could be a leading contender in the RSA next year.
He was outstanding in that first performance of the season in the Mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase, as he beat Doc Penfro by ten lengths.
The RSA will likely see him come up against Envoi Allen, who beat him at the festival last year, but the Tizzard-trained horse looks more than up for the fight.
The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the festival already looks to be one of the most competitive races taking place during the festival. The ante-post market already favours Appreciate It and Ferny Hollow, but Bob Olinger is one of the horses whose price will continue to drop between now and March.
Racing experience may be something that gamblers will be put off by when it comes to the five-year-old, as he has only run on three occasions so far. However, Rachel Blackmore will be riding the Henry De Bromhead-trained horse throughout the season, and that will ensure that he is a chance.
Bob Olinger has won two from three starts, and there were encouraging signs in his run at Gowran Park recently despite being beaten by Ferny Hollow.
Gamblers will be even more intrigued by the horse if it is able to have a prep race at Cheltenham before the festival, and that could happen at the meeting around the festive period.