Cheltenham Festival Offers, Free Bets and Enhanced Odds – 10th to 13th March 2020
There are many big racing meetings and festivals scattered throughout the year, both on British and foreign shores. However if you hear a racing fan speak of the festival, it will be the Cheltenham Festival to which they refer.
The Cheltenham Festival really is THE festival for all racing fans and there’s simply nothing else quite like it. From the famous “Cheltenham roar” which accompanies the opening race, through to the conclusion of the last of the 27 contests, the excitement, the tension and the drama is relentless.
Check out the latest Cheltenham Festival betting offers, free bets, money back offers and enhanced odds deals from the best bookies in the business! Non-Runner No Bet promos are listed on our dedicated 2020 Cheltenham NRNB feature if that’s what you’re after.
Best Cheltenham Offers 2020
Note that it’s worth checking back regularly during the Cheltenham Festival as many of the best offers are only available for short periods of time before the bookies stop them being available because they have often proved so popular!
BETWAY: BACK PAISLEY PARK AT 40/1 TO WIN THE STAYERS’ HURDLE
Another top offer from Betway, this time on last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park as he looks to repeat the feat.
Betway Paisley Park Main Terms – New customers from UK and Ireland only. Valid debit/credit card or Paypal. Bets only eligible for the 15:30 Stayers’ Hurdle race. Min deposit €/£10. Max stake €/£1. Race Winner singles only. Winnings paid in Free Bets. Offer expires 12/03/20 at 15:30 GMT. 18+ begambleaware.org Full Terms Apply.
PADDY POWER: BACK PAISLEY PARK AT 30/1 TO WIN THE STAYERS’ HURDLE
Another fine 30/1 offer from Paddy Power on Paisley Park to win the Stayers’ Hurdle, as he did this time last year!
Paddy Power Paisley Park Offer Main Terms – New customers only. Max stake €/£1. Winnings paid in cash at normal odds, topped up to enhanced price in free bets valid for 7 days. Deposits with cards/PayPal only. Excludes multiples & in-play bets. T&Cs apply.
888SPORT – BACK A WINNER AT 4/1+ & GET £5 FREE BET
Aside from their main Bet £10, Get £40 in Free Bets offer, 888sport have various offers that can be claimed by racing punters. For instance their 4/1+ £5 free bet offer is perfect for those looking for some long odds winners at Cheltenham.
888sport £5 Free Bet Offer Main Terms – Valid on between 5/10/2018-30/06/2020 • Min Bet Min Bet £10 • Min odds 4/1 • Free Bet credited upon bet settlement • Free Bet expire after 7 days • Limited to 1 token per day • Withdrawal restrictions and full T&C’s apply
888sport Bet £10, Get £40 in Free Bets – New Customers only – £10 minimum deposit using promo code “Football” – First bet must be placed on any market – Minimum stake £10 at odds of 1/2 (1.5) – Free bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days – Free bet stakes not included in returns – Deposit balance is available for withdrawal at any time. General deposit method & withdrawal restrictions apply & Full T&C’s apply.
BETVICTOR CHELTENHAM OFFER – £20 Bonus plus £10 Free Bet for Every Blackmore Winner
BetVictor have a great Cheltenham offer for new customers: join them and bet £10+ at evens or greater and you’ll get a £10 sports free bet and a £10 casino bonus… PLUS they’ll give you an extra £10 free bet for every winner Rachael Blackmore rides at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival! Check out the BetVictor Cheltenham Offer page for more info or just visit BetVictor themselves and claim the offer!
BetVictor Blackmore Cheltenham Offer Main Terms – New Customers. Place a qualifying bet of £10 or more at odds of evens (2.00) and get £10 in Sports Free Bets, a £10 Casino Bonus 40x wagering and a £10 Sports Free Bet every time Rachael Blackmore wins a race at Cheltenham; 7 day expiry cashed out bets excluded. Offer available from 10:00GMT Tuesday 25th February 2020 until 13:00GMT Friday 13th March 2020. Credit or Debit card only. Geographical Restrictions and T&Cs Apply, See BetVictor Site for Details.
PADDY POWER – NON RUNNER NO BET – ALL CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL RACES!
Irish bookie Paddy Power are one of the first of the big firms to offer NON RUNNER NO BET ON ALL CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL RACES. Not only that, new customers to Paddy Power also get the chance to claim a £20 risk free bet – if your first bet loses, you’ll get a full refund up to £20!
Cheltenham NRNB Key Terms: Non-Runner-No-Bet offer applies to all Cheltenham 2020 Races. Applies to bets placed from 10am February 10th 2020: If you placed your bet after we went ‘non-runner no bet’ you will receive your money back as soon as your non runner is declared. If you have placed an Accumulator and your bet is not Ante Post, the line related to the non runner will be void but the rest of the lines on the Accumulator will still stand.
Paddy Power £20 Risk Free First Bet Key Terms: New customers only, limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your FIRST bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £20. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply. Paddy’s Rewards Club: Get a £10 free bet when you place 5x bets of £10+. T&Cs apply.
2019 Cheltenham Festival Betting Offers and Free Bets
The 2019 Cheltenham Festival betting offers will appear here as and when they are released, so check back regularly!
Top Cheltenham Festival Free Bets & Offers – At A Glance
Here we give brief info about the top Cheltenham offers for the 2019 Festival. You can see more details further down the page or indeed on the betting site in question.
- LADBROKES BET £5, GET £20 IN FREE BETS – 18+ New UK+IRE customers. Paypal and certain deposit types and bet types excluded. Min £5 bet within 14 days of account reg at min odds 1/2 = 4 x £5 free bets. Free bets valid for 4 days on sports, stake not returned, restrictions apply. T&Cs apply.
- CORAL BET £5, GET £20 IN FREE BETS – 18+. UK+IRE only. Min first bet £5 at odds 1/2 or more. Tote and Pool excluded. Must be placed within 14 days of account reg. £20 credited as 4 x £5 free bets. Not valid with Cash Out. Free bet valid for 4 days. Free bet stake not returned. T&Cs apply.
- BETVICTOR BET £5 GET £30 – New Customers Only. Deposit via Credit/Debit card only and bet £5 @ odds 2.0+ within 7 days of registering; Cashed out bets excluded. Get 2x £10 free bets, valid for set types (1 @ odds 2.0+ or greater) & a £10 casino bonus, wagered 40x to withdraw; Bonuses expire in 7 days; Geographical restrictions apply. See BetVictor site for T&C’s. 18+|begambleaware.org
- TOTESPORT £35 NEW CUSTOMER OFFER – New UK & NI Customers. 18+. Stake from £5 to £25 on any Sportsbook market for the first time, at odds of evens (2.0) or greater and get a matched Free Bet within 24 hours of settlement, 7-day expiry. Stake £10 on any Totepool bet for the first time and receive £10 back in cash within 24 hours of settlement. E-Wallet and Prepaid Card restrictions apply. SMS validation may be required. Full T&Cs Apply.
- BETFAIR £100 IN FREE BETS OFFER – New customer offer. Place 5 x £10 or more bets to receive £20 in free bets. Repeat up to 5 times to receive maximum £100 bonus. Min odds 1/2 (1.5). Exchange bets excluded. T&Cs apply.
- BETFRED BET £10, GET £30 IN FREE BETS – New customers from UK & Northern Ireland. Stake £10 or more at odds of Evens (2.0) or greater on your first bet. £30 free bet credited in 48 hours of your first bet being settled. 7 day expiry. E-Wallet restrictions apply. Max 30 Free Spins on selected games. Full T&Cs apply.
- PADDY POWER £20 RISK FREE FIRST BET – New customers only, limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your FIRST bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £20. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply. Paddy’s Rewards Club: Get a £10 free bet when you place 5x bets of £10+. T&Cs apply.
- Others coming soon…
Cheltenham Festival Big Race Favourites – March 2020
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
The opening race of the Cheltenham Festival, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is always one to study closely as punter try to assess which trainers have got their house in order. Of course you never tell too much from one race, but the likes of Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Gordon Elliott will be as eager as ever to get off to a winning start to the Festival.
As things stand, it is the Nicky Henderson runner Shishkin who leads the way in the betting. The Irish six year old is priced at around the 11/4 mark for the Supreme Novices’, after winning four of his last five races.
Gordon Elliott’s Envoi Allen and Willie Mullins’ Asterion Forlonge are both available at 3/1 at the time of writing with another from the Elliott stable, Abacadabras at 6/1.
As with many of this year’s Cheltenham races, the Arkle doesn’t see any runner as a really strong favourite. We have Henry De Bromhead’s Notebook as the 11/4 favourite after he has impressed over fences, winning four out of four.
Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies is at 9/2 after some good runs, but we like the look of Dan Skelton’s Maire Banrigh as a decent each way option at around 14/1 after five wins on the spin.
The feature race of the opening day, the Champion Hurdle, looks very nicely poised with a possible three- or even four-way battle in prospect. Nicky Henderson has the favourite as things stand in the form of six year old Epatante who is priced at 7/2 after winning the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in December. Pentland Hills, from the same stable, is the second favourite at 5/1, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be moved elsewhere. Henry De Bromhead’s impressive mare, Honeysuckle, is priced at 7/1, while the Mullins runner Cilaos Emery is at 8/1.
Much will of course depend on which of these runners is kept on the card for this one and which is shipped out to another race. But if they all run we’re in for some real fireworks.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
The biggest race of the second day, and for many of the entire Festival, the Champion Chase will once again prove highly popular with punters. Altior remains one of the hottest favourites for the week and the wonder horse is looking for his third straight Champions Chase triumph.
Despite a defeat in November over a distance that isn’t his favourite, we think Altior has what it takes to get the job done here, and we’ll certainly be backing him. We’re also hopeful there will be some nice Altior Cheltenham Offers from the top bookies.
Looking at each way options here and you could do worse than side with A Plus Tard at decent odds of 12/1. The six year old is almost always in amongst the leader when he races and we could see the same here, unless he’s redirected to the Ryanair Chase.
If A Plus Tard runs in this one, he is the one to beat for our money. But the Willie Mullins-trained Min can never be discounted, and Paul Nicholls’ Frodon is also a serious contender in a race that always delivers excitement.
This year’s Stayers’ Hurdle has plenty of contenders, but as often is the case with the feature race on the third day of the Festival, much will depend on which runners line up. Current favourite is last year’s winner Paisley Park, trained by Emma Lavelle, who has won his last seven including the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in each of the last two years. Priced at odds of 4/6, it’ll take something special to beat him.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
And so to the big one, and the current favourite for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Cotswold Chase winner, Santini. Priced at odds of just 3/1, we think he’s a shade short, and the same goes for last year’s winner Al Boum Photo (4/1).
Instead we prefer the look of Gordon Elliott’s seven year old, Delta Work, at odds of 6/1. He won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February and looked a class act that day and could do the same here. Third last year in the RSA Chase we think he has what it takes to go for glory this year.
There are sure to be plenty of market moves ahead of the Festival so be sure to check back here or to take a look at our individual Cheltenham Festival race previews for the latest info.
Latest Cheltenham Betting Previews
Cheltenham Festival Day One Overview
The Cheltenham Festival opens with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The race has existed in one form or another since way back in 1946 but was given its current title in 1978. The most promising of the newcomers to the hurdling game tackle eight flights of hurdles over a trip of two miles and half a furlong. The crowd generating the famous roar which accompanies the start of this race invariably has a large Irish contingent. A lot of the Irish will still be cheering come the finish line, horses from the Emerald Isle often take home the first prize of the festival. The great Vincent O’Brien won this 10 times and the history of the race is peppered with Irish successes. It is worth keeping a close eye on this race with respect to Festivals of the future. The likes of Brave Inca, Binocular and Kicking King all made their first festival appearances in this race, as did Henrietta Knight’s superstar, Best Mate.
The top chasing prospects enter the fray for the second race on the opening day as they compete for the Arkle Trophy. The race is named after one of the greatest jumps horses to ever set foot on the track. The mighty Arkle won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times during his spectacular career. There is no hanging around here in a race which is run over of a trip of two miles and features 13 fences. An ability to jump accurately at speed is key to success. Keep an eye on any French-bred horses as they have done very well over the years. Front runners on the other hand have fared poorly – it’s difficult to judge a race correctly from the front whilst still saving enough for the punishing run up the Cheltenham hill to the finish line. Few have managed to pull this off. Several graduates of this race have gone on to take the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival in subsequent years including the likes of Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Scare.
The first handicap event of the festival precedes what is the main event of Day One: the Champion Hurdle. The best of the best in the hurdling ranks invariably arrive at the top of their game, in pursuit of the highest accolade awarded to competitors over the smaller obstacles. The top trainers will all have carefully plotted the campaign of their hurdling stars, with the aim of taking home this big prize.
In common with the opening race of the day, the trip is two miles and half a furlong with eight hurdles to be negotiated. One notable aspect of this race is the number of multiple winners over the years. Pay close attention to the chances of the winner of the previous year’s race, whilst any previous winning or placed Festival form on a horse’s CV is also worthy of note. In addition it pays to concentrate on the more experienced runners, those aged six years and upwards have a far better record than the younger horses. Amongst the superstars of yesteryear to have triumphed here on more than one occasion are Istabraq, See You Then, Bula and Sea Pigeon. The brilliant mare Dawn Run also won this race prior to becoming the first mare to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
A mare’s hurdle, national hunt chase and a novice handicap chase wrap up the action on the opening day. Racing fans have time to collect their thoughts before moving on to the next enthralling day of entertainment.
For more details about the individual races on the open day, see our Cheltenham Festival Day One Betting Guide.
Cheltenham Festival Day Two Overview
We again open proceedings with a novice hurdle event. The Neptune Novices’ Hurdle provides a contest for those novice hurdlers seeking a greater test of stamina. The race is run over a trip of two miles and five furlongs and features 10 flights of hurdles.
When looking at this race, focus on horses towards the head of the market as shocks are rare. The field is generally made up of younger horses, winners over the age of six are few and far between. Other races at the festival seem to favour horses who have been lightly raced, that isn’t the case here. Race fitness should be taken as a positive, take particular note of those horses who finished first or second last time out and come into the race battle-hardened as a result of running regularly.
Another point worthy of note is that those horses who started out in bumper races fare significantly better than those making the switch from flat racing. Istabraq won his first race at the Festival in this one, whilst future dual Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace also took home the prize.
Another race for novices is up next and this one’s a real test, the RSA Chase. Three miles and half a furlong is the trip with nineteen fences to be jumped. Staying and jumping ability are thoroughly examined and some really talented individuals have won this over the years. Arkle, Denman and Bobs Worth are amongst the high class performers to have emerged victorious in this race before later rubber stamping their class by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
When looking to narrow the field the first step should be to focus solely on those horses aged seven or eight as they have dominated the race over the years. The stern challenge this race imposes also makes it necessary to have had a recent race. Any horse not to have run in the previous three months is up against it when viewing the stats. When looking further back through the form, those horses who were contesting novice hurdles in the previous season, but have quickly progressed to the chasing ranks have an excellent record.
The next race on the card is the Coral Cup which is often one of the most anticipated handicap races of the Festival. This is swiftly followed by the Queen Mother Champion Chase which is the highlight of the second day. This is the race connections of the best middle distance chasers covet above all others. Run over a trip of two miles and featuring 12 stiff fences, course form is worth its weight in gold. A two mile chase at Cheltenham is a unique test and runners must truly stay the trip. Any course and distance winner in the field must immediately go on the shortlist, along with horses to have won or run well in the previous season’s Arkle.
Chasers to have performed in the Tingle Creek at Sandown en route to Cheltenham also often do well. This is another of the championship events to have seen a spate of multiple winners over the years. Overall this usually goes to one of the more fancied runners who have been relatively lightly campaigned. Famous previous winners include Crisp, Viking Flagship, Moscow Flyer and Master Minded.
The action on Day Two continues with a cross country chase, followed by a handicap hurdle for four-year-olds. The only flat race of the week, the Champion Bumper, ends the day.
For more information about the individual races, see our Cheltenham Festival Day Two Betting Guide.
Cheltenham Festival Day Three Overview
Day Three of the Cheltenham Festival opens with one of the newer races at the meeting. The JLT Novices’ Chase was only introduced to the schedule in 2011 and it has proved to be a popular addition. Run over two and a half miles, the race offers a route into the Festival for those novices whose best trip falls somewhere between the two miles of the Arkle and the three miles plus of the RSA Chase. A high class hurdler from the previous season seems to be a good place to start when seeking out the winner, providing they have already shown signs of translating this ability to the larger obstacles.
General trends for the Festival’s chase races should also be considered when looking through the runners, namely sticking to those in the seven to eight-year-old age bracket, with course form again given utmost respect. The Dipper Chase, run over a slightly longer trip over the course on New Year’s Day, offers a good trial for this race.
The second race on the card is the Pertemps Final which gives the handicap hurdlers a chance to shine. Hot on the heels of this race is another relative newcomer to the Cheltenham scene.
The Ryanair Chase joined the Festival party in 2005 and quickly became one of the highlights of the third day. Any chaser of five years or older is free to tackle the two miles and five furlongs trip, age proving no barrier to success for the likes of Fondmort, Our Vic and Albertas Run who all took this race at the age of 10.
A horse with a touch of class and the requisite toughness to see out the punishing home straight is what is required here. Look for horses who like to race up with pace and have copper-bottomed stamina. The King George VI run at Kempton on Boxing Day offers a good preparation for this contest.
The Grade One action continues with the fourth race of the day, the Stayers’ Hurdle (previously the World Hurdle). This is the championship event for the season’s staying hurdlers and is the feature of Day Three at Cheltenham.
The contest has provided some truly memorable moments from some outstanding horses over the years. Brilliant winners include Barracouda (twice), Inglis Drever (three times) and the legendary Big Buck’s (on four occasions).
It’s best to swerve front runners in this race. Trying to make the running over this distance at such a challenging track has proved a bridge too far for many a talented horse over the years.
The most important form indicators come from previous runs at the Cheltenham Festival or good efforts in either the Long Walk Hurdle or the Cleeve Hurdle. Form tends to hold up to a large degree, resulting in those towards the head of the betting market fighting out the finish more often than not.
Two intriguing handicap chases round off the card on Day Three. The first of which is a Grade Three contest, whilst the final race of the day is restricted to amateur riders.
For more details and info about the individual races on the penultimate day of the Festival, see our Cheltenham Festival Day Three Betting Guide.
Cheltenham Festival Day Four Overview
The first of seven races contested on the final day of action at the Cheltenham Festival is the Triumph Hurdle. The race is restricted to four-year-old novice hurdlers and is run over a trip of two miles and one furlong. Since its introduction to the festival in 1968 the race has become a primary target for the best first season hurdlers. Winners of the race don’t always go on to maintain their superiority in their subsequent career, Katchit and Persian War are two of a rare breed to have followed up with a win in the Champion Hurdle itself.
Due to the age of the horses there isn’t as much previous form on which to base a selection. It is nevertheless best to stick with horses that have demonstrated a high level of ability in their careers to date. A flat rating of 80 or above or a hurdle rating of at least 135 gives a horse a fair chance of success.
The second race of the day is the County Hurdle, a handicap event that is run over two miles one furlong. This is swiftly followed by the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. This three mile event is another to have entered the fray in 2005 and attracts the younger stayers who are perhaps not yet deemed ready for the challenge of a World Hurdle. High on the list of success factors for this race are having run well over this trip and experience of the course. Those with a preference for racing up with the pace should also be given extra credit as hold up performers often struggle to land a blow. Victory in this race can be a good pointer to future festival success. Weapons Amnesty won the RSA the year after taking this, whilst Bobs Worth went on to win the biggest one of them all, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The next race up is the big one, not just of Day Four but of the Festival as a whole. For many, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is in fact the highlight of the whole racing year. The Grand National may provide a unique spectacle but in terms of quality jumps racing, it is this race which sits atop the pile.
A race steeped in history having been first run back in 1924, the list of previous winners is littered with jumping legends. Golden Miller, Arkle, Dawn Run, Desert Orchid, Best Mate and Kauto Star are all horses who achieved popularity on a national scale. A large part of this acclaim can be attributed to their remarkable feats in this race. This truly is the race in which history and lasting memories are made.
It takes a rare mix of class, heart, stamina and jumping ability for a horse to prove themselves the best staying chaser in training and be awarded the famous Gold Cup. Three miles and two and a half furlongs with 22 fences provide the most thorough of examinations. Experience is important when looking at this race, the vast majority of winners having had at least six chase starts. In terms of age those in the seven to nine years of age bracket tend to fair best and winners have generally demonstrated their class by previously winning at least one Grade One contest. The King George VI is particularly useful when looking for pointers ahead of this race. If you only watch one race at the Festival, make it this one as it offers one of the most exciting and dramatic sporting spectacles of the year.
The Gold Cup may be over and done but the action continues with three more races on the final day. The Foxhunter Chase is next and gives the amateur riders a chance to tackle the Gold Cup course. The penultimate race is an event for conditional jockeys before the Grand Annual closes the meeting. Then it’s all over… until next year.
For more details about the individual races on the final day, see our Cheltenham Festival Day Four Betting Guide.
2019 Cheltenham Festival Archive
The 2019 Cheltenham Festival betting and previews will be archived here to see how our views have developed over the last few months.
Cheltenham Festival Ante Post Preview: January 2019
Not too long now until what we and many other see as THE sporting event of the year, with the magnificent 2019 Cheltenham Festival now firmly on the horizon. With many of the key trials now having taken place and the ante post markets up and running, let’s take a look at how things are shaping up in a selection of the Festival’s biggest races.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: Breath To Blow Them Away?
We have a new clear favourite for the Festival opener, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, in the form of Nicky Henderson’s Angel’s Breath. This one had looked pretty smart when hacking up in his point to point over in Ireland before joining the Henderson operation in November.
It’s not always easy to know what to make of that point to point form though, and whilst the noises emanating from the yard were very positive, the acid test came when the son of Shantou was pitched into the Supreme Trial at Ascot in December.
The five year old passed that test with flying colours, travelling smoothly throughout before dismissing some useful opposition with the minimum of fuss to score by four and half length. bet365 were suitably impressed, cutting the horse in to make him the 13/2 favourite from 10/1.
Arkle Chase: Lalor Bombs Out, Kalashnikov Misfires and Dynamite Explodes Onto The Scene
Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor had assumed clear favouritism for this contest following an emphatic success on chase debut in Cheltenham’s Arkle Trial when slamming Dynamite Dollars by seven lengths. The seven year old’s next start didn’t go quite so well though, as he trailed in third and fully 12-lengths adrift of the very same Dynamite Dollars. Was it just the soft ground that beat him that day? He’s out to odds of 6/1 from 4/1 with bet365 to win the Arkle.
Another to have headed the market here is the Amy Murphy-trained Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner up, Kalashnikov. 11 lengths and 18 lengths too good for the opposition on his first two starts over fences, would he prove up to the task on his first crack in Graded company in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton? The answer to that question on the day was no, as he was given 5lbs and a one and a quarter length beating by none other than Dynamite Dollars. Kalashnikov is now out to 5/1 from as short as 11/4 with Ladbrokes, with Dynamite Dollars in to 6/1 from 10/1 with bet365.
Champion Hurdle: Buveur’s Bubble Burst?
The day one feature, the Champion Hurdle, had really looked all over bar the shouting, with the defending champion, Buveur D’Air making an imperious return in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, and credible opposition seemingly thin on the ground. The cat is now firmly back amongst the pigeons though following Buveur D’Air’s surprising defeat to stablemate Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
He wasn’t beaten far and wasn’t helped by a juddering error at the third last, but this does prove he isn’t invincible after all and he’s out to 6/4 from 4/5 with Betfair. Verdana Blue meanwhile – who will reportedly only run should the ground ride on the quick side – is in to 12/1 from 20/1 with BetVictor.
Willie Mullins’ Laurina remains second favourite for the race at 4/1 with Ladbrokes following a comeback win in a match race which didn’t tell us much other than that she still has four legs. She isn’t the only challenger from the Mullins yard though, with the Rich Ricci runner Sharjah bursting onto the scene with two impressive successes in Grade 1 company at Punchestown and Leopardstown. Long held in high regard, perhaps this will be the season he arrives onto the big stage. He can be backed at 10/1 with Ladbrokes.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle: Champ Living Up To His Name
Owned by JP McManus and reportedly named in honour of the greatest jumps jockey of all time, Sir Anthony McCoy, the Nicky Henderson trained Champ appears set on doing full justice to his moniker so far this season. Never outside the first two in seven career starts (five wins), he is a perfect two from two this term and took the step into Grade 1 company in his formidable stride when landing the Challow Novices’ Hurdle last time out at Newbury. The turn of foot he showed that day was particularly impressive and he now heads the betting for the Ballymore at 5/1 with Coral.
Champ isn’t the only one to have made rapid strides towards the head of the market for this race though. Successful last season with Samcro, Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud look to have strong claims once again with the unbeaten Battleoverdoyen. Finding the step into Grade 1 company to be no issue when scoring by 2¾l at Naas last time out, this big chaser in the making rates a threat to all at 6/1 with Bet365.
RSA Chase: Santini Still Great Despite Defeat?
Nicky Henderson’s Santini is already being touted as a future Gold Cup contender in some quarters, and on the pick of his performances, it’s easy to see why that assessment has been made. First up though it’s this season’s RSA Chase which is on the agenda. An easy winner of a Grade 2 at Newbury on his seasonal return, he was then only third when stepped into the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
He wasn’t beaten far on the day though and it is expected that the more demanding track at Cheltenham will suit this dour stayer far better than Kempton’s tighter configuration. The son of Milan maintains his place at the head of the betting at 10/3 with Betfair.
Le Bague Au Roi was the winner of that Kauto Star Novices contest, but has never gone particularly well at Cheltenham. Second placed finisher Topofthegame does have solid form at Prestbury Park though having also filled the runners up spot in last season’s Coral Cup, and seems likely to prove a popular each way option at 8/1 with Ladbrokes.
Gold Cup: Percy Present At The Head Of The Betting
The compilers have never been taking too many chances with last season’s RSA winner Presenting Percy when it comes to this season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, but now make him the clear favourite for the race, despite the fact that the Patrick Kelly trained runner hasn’t been seen at the track so far this season. That seven length rout of the opposition in the RSA did point strongly to a Gold Cup challenge though and we suspect there will be plenty of takers of the 9/2 available with Betfair.
Presenting Percy’s place at the head of affairs is as much down to the underwhelming displays of others as it is to his own ability. Last here’s Champion Native River (5/1 with Betfair) has been solid but unspectacular in finishing second in the Betfair Chase and third in the King George, and 2018 runner up Might Bite (20/1 with Betfair) has been woeful in his two starts and now heads for a wind operation.
Thistlecrack had seemed a horse destined for the very top over fences – and did win the King George prior to an injury setback – only for injury to put the brakes on matters. Third in the Betfair Chase and second in this seasons King George though, the signs are that he may be on the way back to his imperious best. The Colin Tizzard runner is in to 8/1 from 14’s with Bet365.
The two-clear standout’s for us on this seasons form though are Paul Nicholl’s smooth travelling, King George winner, Clan Des Obeaux, now 10/1 with Betfair, and the Willie Mullins trained Kemboy (7/1 with Coral) who appeared to take a significant leap forward when routing the opposition in the Grade 1 Savill’s Chase at Leopardstown.
Cheltenham Festival Ante Post: The Early Favourites – November 2018
The 2018-19 National Hunt Season is now officially underway, and whilst the seasonal championships of the Cheltenham Festival may seem a little way off at present, the trials for the showpiece contests will soon begin in earnest and those magical four days in March will be upon us before we know it. There will be many a racing punter already plotting their ante-post attack on the meeting, so what better time to take a look at the early market leaders in the Festival’s showpiece events.
Champion Hurdle: D’air To Do It Again?
The opening day highlight of the Champion Hurdle has fallen to the Nicky Henderson runner, Buveur D’Air in each of the past two seasons and the odds compilers rate the JP McManus owned gelding the most likely winner again this time around. It’s a tall order to win the race three years in succession, but not an impossible one.
Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, Istabraq and Henderson’s very own, See You Then, have all achieved the feat in the past. 4½l too good for the field in 2017, Buveur D’Air prevailed by just a neck last time around, so the gap has been closing, but will this be the year he is overtaken? He’s currently a 3/1 shot with Ladbrokes.
Samcro the wonder horse was expected to provide the sternest opposition this season – and he still might – but the Gordon Elliott star didn’t look quite so wonderful when turned over at 4/9 on his seasonal return. Blip or otherwise, he’s on the drift on the back of that run.
Queen Mother Champion Chase: Altior Awesome Again?
It takes a special horse to be the stable star in a yard so formidable as that of Nicky Henderson. It is to Altior to whom that title currently falls, and he is indeed a very special horse. Unbeaten in his past 15 starts, he is already a three-time Cheltenham Festival winner having landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Arkle Chase and this very race last year. The winning margins for those wins? 7l, 6l and 7l again. Formidable indeed.
Interestingly the son of High Chaparral holds an entry in the King George VI Chase at present, which suggests that connections are at least considering trying him over further. Sticking to the 2m route still looks the most likely course for the season though and at 11/8 with Betfair, he’s the shortest priced favourite in any of the festival’s championship events at this stage.
Last season’s 14l Arkle hero, Footpad, would at least give the favourite something to think about, but a fall and injury on his recent return was hardly the ideal start to the campaign. Footpad can be backed at 5/1 with bet365.
Stayers Hurdle: Mullins Machine Back For More
We have a name familiar to all fans of the jumping game at the head of the market for this years Stayers’ Hurdle in the shape of the horse known to many simply as, “The Machine”. Willie Mullins won this last season with Penhill, but it is his stablemate, the mighty Faugheen, who tops most lists this time around. Going in the famous pink and green silks of owner Rich Ricci, the Neptune and Champion Hurdle winner will be into his eleventh year by the time this comes around, and showed he perhaps isn’t quick enough for the Champion Hurdle these days when trailing home in sixth 12 months ago.
With there having been signs of a few glitches in the machine even before that, the decision was taken to try something different and step him right up in trip for the Stayer’ Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. The response of Faugheen was emphatic as he pulverised a field including Penhill to the tune of 13 lengths. If he turns up in anything like that sort of form, the 5/1 currently available with bet365 would look a pretty big price.
Cheltenham Gold Cup: River and Bite Renew Rivalry
Colin Tizzard’s Native River and Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite served up a real heavyweight classic in this race twelve months ago, with the tough as teak Tizzard star outstaying his big rival only in the closing stages. The market makers expect we may be in for more of the same this year – and on all known form they do look to be the two best chasers in the division. Might Bite is a best priced 6/1 with Betfair, whilst Native River can be backed at 7/1 with Ladbrokes. Much may depend on the ground on the day, with softer conditions favouring the defending champ, and quicker ground bringing Might Bite’s speed more into play.
It’s not all about those two though, and if there is one horse who may well be primed to crash the party at the top table this season, it could be the Patrick Kelly runner, Presenting Percy. A perfect two from two at the Cheltenham Festival, he looked all over a future Gold Cup horse when smashing the field by a resounding 7l in the RSA Chase last season. He will be eight years old by the time this comes around, which recent evidence suggests is just about the prime time to strike here. Presenting Percy can be backed at 6/1 with bet365.