We are less than a week away from the biggest and best race meeting of the year. The Cheltenham festival is the showcase of the greatest horses that the UK and Ireland have to offer and this year it has been an unpredictable road leading up to the festival.
Unfortunately, this time round we will be without some of racings biggest superstars as leading up to the festival horse after horse, has succumbed to injury. Most recently the horse I was most looking forward to seeing Thistlecrack has been pulled out after being firm favourite for the Gold Cup in Ante Post betting. Vautour and Many Clouds sadly passed away this year and huge names; Annie Power and Faugheen also missing out.
This time last year the festival was dominated by the duo of Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins however, they didn’t get off to the best of starts in the 2016 festival with 15/8 favourite Min finishing only 2nd behind the now dominant Altior in the supreme novices’ hurdle. Unfortunately, Min will not be able to run this year as the horse picked up an injury in the build up to the festival. This year in that race I expect a Mullins horse to win and Melon at 4/1 for this race looks like a great pick.
As for last years winner Altior he will head into the Arkle chase massive favourite at 2/7. For me, no horse in this field will get close to Altior. Described by trainer Nicky Henderson as “A Horse with gears” Altior should come home easily much like last year in the Supreme. However at 2/7 that is not a working mans price so my tip for the Arkle is Le Prezien E/W at 16/1. Le Prezien is a great horse and can definitely get some place money for any punters
The Champion Hurdle has been won in the last two years by two of my favourite horses in Faugheen and Annie Power both going off as favourites for this race. This year Yanworth heads the betting. Without a doubt Yanworth is a talented horse however up against this field I don’t see it winning this one. Yanworth has never blown my socks off when it has ran and I don’t fancy it at odds of 5/2. MyTentOrYours is a very appealing price at 16/1, last years runner up will be looking to go one better this year but it will have to improve on its recent runs.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase should be very straight forward. Douvan shouldn’t have any issues overcoming this field. Once again at 1/3 however I don’t think Douvan is worth backing so I would go with God’s Own E/W at 12/1. God’s Own had the better of Vautour twice last year and anybody who follows racing will tell you that Vautour is one of the best horses of the past decade.
As for the Ryanair. I would back the favourite going into it Un De Sceaux. Even at 15/8 I think it is a good price to back this horse as it has all the makings of a superstar, beating second favourite for the Ryanair Uxizandre by five lengths in Janurary.
One of the best horses this past year has been UknowhatimeanHarry. He is going to go into the stayers hurdle heavy favourite however, in my opinion, his price is way too short. At 5/4 UknowhatimeanHarry is going to be the winner in my opinion however, I would not bet on him at those odds if you don’t have a lot of money to throw at it. There are two other horses entering that race that will give him a run for his money. Both The New One and Ballyoptic are great horses with Ballyoptic in good form. Betting on either of those two at 12/1 and 16/1 respectively represents better value.
The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle will have one of the best battles of the festival as Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini are set to square off. Both winners at the festival last year with VVM winning this race last year and Limini winning The Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ hurdle. These two are so evenly matched however I think VVM’s experience will see it through and she will win this one.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the race I have been looking forward to all year long. After the King George on Boxing Day I was ready to throw my entire bankroll at Thistlecrack to win this. The King George performance is by far and away the best performance I have ever seen over fences. Just watch how it powers away from Cue Card on that final turn. Unfortunately, Thistlecrack misses out with injury so there are currently 3 joint favourites.
Cue Card. Who needs no introduction, he is one of the best horses in the world and if he hadn’t of fallen last year he would have been looking at retaining his title.
Native River. Another Tizzard horse and The Welsh National winner has seen his odds slashed over the past few months and is now joint favourite going into the race. Beat Bristol De Mai convincingly last time out.
Djakadam. Always the bridesmaid never the bride. Runner up to both Coneygree and Don Cossack the past two years in this race it could be time for Djakadam to go one better.
For me Cue Card is the pick to win this race. What do I need to say about this horse that hasn’t already been said? One of the most loved horses in the world and extremely talented as well. Turning 11 next month it is now or never for Cue Card to win a gold cup.