The Cheltenham Festival is once again upon us, bringing together the best British and Irish horses and jockeys in one series of events running from the 14-17 March, just in time to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day. Will the luck of the Irish be with you as you decide which stallion to stick your money on?
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With seven races each day, Cheltenham is second only to the Grand National in terms of the total winnings up for grabs – by the owners as well as the punters. You don’t need to travel to Cheltenham to take part in the horse race betting though, as you can enjoy online betting wherever you are. However, it’s always best to have a strategy going in, and know which races are worth their weight in gold.
It all kicks off on Tuesday, dubbed Champion Day, and among its races is the Stan James Champion Hurdle. In 2016 it was won by Annie Power, who not only came first but also set a record-breaking time of 3 minutes 45.10 seconds, shaving 0.15 of a second off the previous record held by Jezki, who won in 2014. Wednesday is traditionally Ladies Day, where the women compete for the best outfit award while the horses run the track.
The highlight race is the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, which last year was won by Sprinter Sacre. Caroline Mould’s horse, nicknamed the Black Airplane, also won the same race in 2013, but is not in the running this year. The next day has been marked as St. Patrick’s Day Thursday, celebrating the Irish saint a day earlier, as the 17th clashes with Gold Cup Day.
Cheltenham will be awash with green as Irish music rings out to inspire the horses to victory. The two important races of the day are the Ryanair Steeple Chase and the Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle. As usual, Cheltenham winds things up with the Timico Gold Cup, one of the most thrilling jump races of the horse racing season. Don Cossack won the cup last year, beating nearest rival Djakadam by 4 ½ lengths, but with Don Cossack now retired, Djakadam and his owner Susannah Ricci are having another shot at the title.
With 28 races to bet on over four exciting days of horse racing action, here are some of the best bets of each day:
The highlight of the day is the Champion Hurdle, and although the bookies are favouring Yanworth with odds of 5/2, the Nicky Handerson-trained Buveur D’Air is worth keeping an eye on. The horse has been rested since it won the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February, and is attracting odds of 4/1. In the later David Nicholson Mares Hurdle, Limini is odds-on favourite to win at 6/4.
Another horse owned by Mrs. S Ricci, she faces stiff competition from Vroum Vroum Mag at 9/4, and Apple’s Jade at 4/1. The latter horse came second behind Limini at the Quevega Mares Hurdle last month, and as the younger horse she had a strong race, so would be a good bet. An outside bet would be Colin’s Sister at 25/1, who won the Weatherbys GSB Goes Online Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdles at Sandown.
The main attraction on Wednesday is the 3.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase, which Douvan is odds-on favourite to win at 1/4. However, Alan Potts’ recent purchase of Fox Norton was announced for the race the same day that reigning champion Sprinter Sacre retired. Potts put Fox Norton under the tested hand of trainer Colin Tizzard, and it will be interesting to see how his methods differ from previous trainer Neil Mulholland. At 7/1, it might be worth a punt.
The last race of the day is the two-mile Grade 1 Champion Bumper, which celebrates its 25th anniversary since it was established in 1992. Trainer Willie Mullins has had eight wins on this course, which could be why Carter McKay has the best odds at 3/1. Another trainer with a previous win is Jessica Harrington, whose entry Someday is third favourite at 7/1.
The St. Paddy’s Day celebrations will be in full swing by the time the Ryanair Chase takes flight at 2.50. Douvan is racing again, this time with slightly longer odds of 7/4. Another favourite is the Irish 10-year-old Empire of Dirt, with attractive odds of 4/1. Uxizandre is slightly behind this with 5/1 odds. The horse raced in Cheltenham in January, coming second against Un De Sceaux, who is also in this race, second favourite behind Douvan with odds of 9/4.
Immediately after this race is the Stayers Hurdle, with the incredibly-named Unowhatimeanharry, named after Frank Bruno’s catchphrase, “You know what I mean, Harry.” The Harry Fry trained horse is enjoying unprecedented success having won his last eight races, no small feat when you consider he was bought by original trainer Helen Nelmes after she saw him advertised in the adverts of Horse & Hound.
Bet365 is offering odds of 5/4, and also has a separate ticket that excludes Unowhatimeanharry from the betting slip. On this, both Shaneshill and Vroum Vroum Mag are tied at 7/2, while Jezki has odds of 4/1.
The racing organisers always save the best for last, and Friday is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Cue Card and Native River are joint favourites, both sitting at 10/3 to win. Djakadam is still in contention at 7/2, although a strong outside bet would be Outlander at 10/1, who beat both Djakadam and Don Poli at the Leopardstown Lexus Chase in December.
Empire of Dirt is again in contention, with long odds at 12/1. If you want to enjoy the four days of horse racing action from the comfort of your home, why not visit Bet365 for all your horse betting needs? The bookmaker is offering a 100% First Deposit Bonus up to £200 for all new members, so what are you waiting for?
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