The biggest event in the horse racing calendar has arrived. Here at ParkLife Sport, we have put together everything you need to know for of the week ahead: the best odds and trustworthy tips from the experts.
It’s the time of year that horse-racing fans and betting fanatics have been eagerly awaiting.
The Race Festival brings over 250,000 visitors into Cheltenham, coupled with over a million viewers watching at home on TV.
As is traditionally the case, the Gold Cup was the festival’s most popular race, with a peak ITV audience of 1.635 million for Native River’s defeat of Might Bite.
The action gets underway here on March 12th and we’ve got all the information you need ahead of the four-day spectacle.
Day 1: Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Dan Barber: “If you’re judging this purely on who’s got the best form, who’s equipped to cope with the demands of the race, then Al Dancer should be top of the list.”
David Cleary: “The one that really interests me among the British is Grand Sancy, who has progressed really steadily all the way through, and he’s got a level of form which to me is as good as anything else in the race.”
Martin Dixon: “A really interesting horse for Olly Murphy is Thomas Darby… He did beat Elixir de Nutz off level weights back in the Autumn. He’s likely to be well suited by going back into a strongly-run race.”
Al Dancer: 7/2 – Betfair
Grand Sancy: 12/1 – William Hill
Thomas Darby: 25/1 – William Hill
Day 1: Arkle Chase
Martin Dixon: “Duc des Genievres ran an hour later than Monalee on the same card at Gowran last time out, he carried 2lb more and he was quicker by about two seconds… He set a strong gallop and yet he won with loads in hand. I think a strongly-run Arkle will be perfect for him.”
Dan Barber: “I’m very much in the Glen Forsa camp. His asset is his jumping – he’s basically trained by Henrietta Knight… There hasn’t been a better trainer down the years at getting horses to jump.”
Duc des Genievres: 13/2 – Betfair
Glen Forsa: 4/1 – William Hill
Day 1: Champion Hurdle
Billy Nash: “I don’t fancy Apple’s Jade to win the Champion Hurdle. I think Apple’s Jade winning the Champion Hurdle is like Liverpool winning the League – I just can’t see it happening. I wouldn’t rule out Sharjah who is very much under-the radar. I think it’ll be an outsider that might win the race.”M
Martin Dixon: “Of the two market leaders I’d rather Apple’s Jade than Buveur d’Air, because I think she comes into the race on better form… Laurina has just impressed me every time I’ve seen her – this is by a country mile the best two-mile novice hurdler of the season.”
Apple’s Jade: 9/4 – William Hill
Sharjah: 12/1 – Coral/PaddyPower
Day 1: National Hunt Chase
Martin Dixon: “I don’t think OK Corral has got the guts for it and I think he’s a really bad price. Ballyward to me is a horse who’s got ‘future Gold Cup winner’ written all over him. He travels, he stays, he jumps, he does everything right; the race will be taylor-made for him.
Ballyward: 7/2 – William Hill
Day 2: RSA Chase
Dan Barber: “I don’t even think it’s close as to which one of these is a likely Gold Cup candidate in time – it’s Santini. I just think he’s a better horse than Delta Work.”
Martin Dixon: “Santini himself I think lacks a bit of star quality if I’m honest – he’s a bit slow. Probably the most solid of the outsiders is Mister Malarky. My hunch is that at the top-end of the market there’s not a star amongst them.”
Santini: 10/3 – William Hill
Mister Malarky: 16/1 – William Hill
Day 2: Champion Chase
Dan Barber: “You can pretty much run Altior in any race and he’d win it. He’d win the King George if he went for it… I’m sure he would win a Champion Hurdle.”
Altior: 4/9 – Betfair
Day 2: Champion Bumper
David Cleary: “I think Meticulous could turn the tables on Envoi Allen – which I think is in very strong bumper form – and I didn’t think Meticulous got a particularly good ride. In fact he got a cr*p ride.”
Dan Barber: “Get In The Queue for Harry Fry is something a bit special.”
Meticulous: 10/1 – PaddyPower/William Hill
Get In The Queue: 6/1 – William Hill
Day 3: JLT Novices’ Chase
Dan Barber: “Lostintranslation – I saw him at Chepstow last season and you could tell then this was a serious animal, loads of scope, loads of power about him and he was always going to be a better chaser.”
Billy Nash: “I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Reel Steel running well, I think he’s without a doubt the best of the Irish in this race but weather that’s good enough to win I wouldn’t be all that confident.”
Lostintranslation: 3/1 – William Hill/Bet 365
Real Steel: 7/1 – William Hill/Betfair
Day 3: Ryanair Chase
Billy Nash: “It’s looks like Footpad is going to run in this race. I think the ability is no doubt still there, if they’ve got him back to his best he’s going to take an awful lot of beating in this race.
David Cleary: “The fact Nicholls is trying to get Frodon to run in this race is very interesting, I think he’s a tremendous advert for himself, for his rider and for his trainer, and I think if he did go here he would have a major chance”
Dan Barber: “I like Monalee but I don’t think he’s a star by any means, and if Road To Respect was a guaranteed runner he’d be top of my list.”
Footpad: 7/2 – Betfair/Coral
Frodon: 13/2 – Betfair
Road To Respect: 11/2 – William Hill
Day 3: Stayers’ Hurdle
David Cleary: “Paisley Park has been a really progressive horse through the Autumn and his performance in the Cleeve Hurdle, for me, put him firmly at the head of the staying pack.”
Martin Dixon: “Bapaume was runner up to Presenting Percy last time. He’s about a 25/1 shot and he does come into it in top form, that was probably close to a career best performance last time out. He stays very well, he’s only a six-year-old so he could still be getting better, he’s not had that much racing over staying trips either, and he is a very big price.”
Paisley Park: 7/4 – Betfair
Bapaume: 25/1 – William Hill
Day 3: Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
Dan Barber: “There’s not a lot you can say, apart from Epetante has got a lot of ability. She looks extremely good but it’s all you can say.
“I like one at a much bigger price in this, I like a horse called Elusive Belle for the Waley-Cohens and Nicky Henderson.”
Billy Nash: “The mare I really like is Honeysuckle. 3/3 for Henry De Bromhead, she won a point-to-point, she was sold for £110,000 after that which is huge money for a mare after winning a point, and she’s been really impressive in all three starts so far.”
Epetante: 13/8 – Betfair
Day 4: Triumph Hurdle
Billy Nash: “I think the Triumph is a case of sit back, strap yourself in and enjoy the Sir Erec show. I think he’s an absolute stand-out, I’ve been hugely impressed with him.”
David Cleary: “Pic d’Orhy is a completely unknown quantity in the race, I agree that the majority of British horses are a substandard bunch, but he could just be a horse that has got the ability to at least push Sir Erec.”
Sir Erec: 6/5 – PaddyPower/Betfair
Pic d’Orhy: 10/1 – Coral/William Hill
Day 4: Gold Cup
Dan Barber: “Native River we know he’s tried and trusted, he’s just the classic Gold Cup horse isn’t he? All stamina, sound jumper, ride him positively and put others under pressure with that style.
“I’d be more scared of Presenting Percy’s stamina kicking in late then Clan des Obeaux’s. If one’s going to run him out of it I think it’ll be the Irish raider.”
Billy Nash: “I think the Irish are really strong in this. I think Presenting Percy is potentially the best horse in the race, but I do think the fact he hasn’t run over fences this year is a major negative.
“Willie Mullins has finished second in the race 6 times but I think this might eventually be the year he cracks it. He’s got 4 really live candidates.
“In a wide open race you could do a lot worse than have a few quid on Kemboy.
“It’s without a doubt the best race of the week for me, I think it’s the best Gold Cup we’ve had in years and I can’t wait.”
Martin Dixon: “Bellshill is a horse that I think is tailor-made for the race.
“He jumps, travels, stays, he does everything you want a Gold Cup winner to do, and he goes into it on the back of a career-best performance.”