A leading light in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle will no longer feature in the opening race of Cheltenham due to an injury. The 6 year old will now be trained for Aintree in April. The field for his race at Cheltenham, though, is blown wide open and the bookmakers are taking notice.
Cheltenham Festival 2018 is just around the corner. The mammoth betting event kicks off on Tuesday 13th March and finishes up on Friday 16th March, with a glorious 28 races for bettors to take advantage of.
Like most major horse racing events, such as the Grand National or Melbourne Cup, Cheltenham is never without drama and, due to the size of the festival, speculation about horses and their form tends to be rife in the months leading up to it.
The stakes for horses that are given a run pre-Cheltenham are higher than ever. Bettors monitor their performance in races with great detail, and 2018 is no different. Often overlooked is the fact that horses can be injured even in a non-spectacular and particularly frustrating way.
This is the unfortunate case for If The Cap Fits, a novice who has performed solidly on good to soft ground throughout 2017, but will now be unable to perform at the festival due to a gluteal muscle tear he recently sustained.
Trained by Harry Fry for Paul and Clare Rooney, the 6 year old had four excellent wins at Taunton, Exeter, Bangor and Kempton throughout 2017 and was looking to be a prime favourite for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle up until his injury last week.
He was as short as 5/1 with Paddy Power for the race but his trainers will now be giving him ample time to recover from his setback, with his owners already over Cheltenham and setting their sights on the Grand National meeting in April. A statement on Fry’s website read:
"As disappointing as it is to be missing the festival, we have to do what is correct by the horse and give him time to fully recover. We will now focus on getting him back to full fitness in order to defend his unbeaten record over hurdles at Aintree's Grand National meeting."
If The Cap Fit’s injury has blown the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle wide open then the race is now even more interesting for punters considering a flutter come racetime. There are horses worth wagering on in every race, but the opener is always special, and the renowned ‘Cheltenham roar’ will surely be in full effect.
With the absence of If the Cap Fits, the current favourite is Getabird, who’s coming in at 11/8 with Betfair. However, punters may be drawn to the outside shot Mengli Khan, who is currently at 12/1 with other top online bookmakers and has been in excellent form in recent races, which shouldn't be overlooked.
Cheltenham is within grabbing distance, and punters at bookmakers across the UK and Ireland are starting to earwig and swap tips. There’s plenty of opportunity for fans, with some amazing horse talent worth betting on. The Gold Cup, Cheltenham’s best-loved race, is set to be a stomper and BetBright have Might Bite, the favourite, at 10/3.
However if punters are seeking a classic Cheltenham gamble with some long odds they may go for Shantou Flyer or Mala Beach, both of whom are 100/1 with William Hill for the festival’s flagship race. Cheltenham has been around for over 150 years and is considered to be the world’s most prestigious annual horse race.
The 2018 edition of the festival will feature an action-packed itinerary for an expected 65,000 racegoers on each day. Bookmakers will be present at the festival for racegoers but will of course be available online for those not lucky enough to attend, where they will expect millions of pounds to placed over the four days.