Cheltenham Festival is one of the highlights of the National Hunt racing calendar – and though it’s a month away, ante-post odds are available. Savvy punters can pick up some great prices, but bear in mind that this early, a bit of background knowledge is highly desirable. While a decent rule of thumb is “if Ruby Walsh is riding it, back it”, the ability to answer questions like this is more valuable: Who won three consecutive Arkle Trophy Chases? While Nicky Henderson, having won the last two, looks like the trainer to back, nobody’s managed three in a row since 1949. A little homework could be the key to a win at Cheltenham.
Tickets for the Festival are available now, and the first race is the 1.30 on Tuesday 11th March; the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Champagne Fever won at 5/1 last year, and for 2014 the bookies fancy Vautour at 8/1. Fans of Champagne Fever will have to wait until 2.05; this year’s Arkle Challenge Trophy features the 7-year old as 4/1 favourite, with Nicky Henderson’s Grandouet less popular at 16/1. Dodging Bullets and Trifolium are joint second favourites at 6/1 a month ahead of the action.
Moving on to March 12th, the Queen Mother Champion Chase seems likely to reward Henderson, with Sprinter Sacre a very strong favourite at 4/5. The 8-year old bay gelding has a win rate of over 82%, though he was beaten by Sire de Grugy at Kempton Park in December – who just happens to be second favourite at 11/4. Earlier in the day, things look more open for the RSA Steeple Chase at 2.05. Ballycasey and Carlingford Lough are joint favourites at 8/1, with plenty of contenders at 10/1, and Champagne Fever a possibility at 12/1.
Thursday at the Festival involves an early St Patrick’s Day celebration, and the St Patrick’s Derby will be run again for charity, having raised over £800,000 in the last three years. The World Hurdle at 3.20 could be a shootout between Big Buck’s and Annie Power, at 9/4 and 3/1 respectively, but don’t discount At Fisher’s Cross or More Of That, both 6/1.
Finally, onto the climax of the Festival, the Gold Cup. The bookies’ favourite is Bobs Worth, the defending champion and another Nicky Henderson horse. Bobs Worth is 2/1 to repeat his 2013 success, but other runners worth considering are Cue Card at 8/1, trained by Colin Tizzard, as well as Silviniaco Conti, a strong second favourite at 7/2. Discounts are available for Cheltenham Festival ticket purchases made before 22nd February. Good luck!