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Cheltenham Racing Festival 2018
Mon Mar 12, 2018

 

All roads lead to Prestbury Park on Tuesday, the Cheltenham Festival is well known for its high standard of hospitality. From Guinness stands, champagne bars, food stalls, haute cuisine, and canapés- visitors are sure to find something to satisfy the hunger of even the most ravenous race-goer. But do not worry, if a liquid lunch is more your thing- did you know that on average 220,000 pints of Guinness, 30,000 bottles of wine, and 18,000 bottles of champagne are consumed every year?

Well enough of the eating and drinking let’s get down to brass tax and try and find a few winners. I have listened to all the experts and that can be confusing enough, so below is my take on where the four Championship Races will be won and also four Handicap selections which could represent good each way value.

Champion Hurdle – Yes it’s all about the Nicky Henderson trained Buveur D'air who is unbeaten this season and returns to defend his crown having been an impressive winner last season, He’s no wild price and won’t make you rich but he looks the most obvious winner of the race, maybe a little each on Wicklow Brave might pay dividends also.

Queen Mother Champion Chase – Yet again we have a warm favourite in Altior for Nicky Henderson. A beautiful mover he had a little set back at the end of last season but bounced back with an impressive win on his last start. The Irish team is headed by Min who was impressive at the Dublin Racing Festival and he has had an ideal preparation for the race. Min was a bit below Altior over Hurdles but I think the race will be set up for him and he may just land the spoils for Willie Mullins.

Stayers' Hurdle - Supasundae is fancied by many as the winner of this race, a course winner he took the scalp of Faugheen over 2 miles at Leopardstown on his last start and connections immediately nominated this race for him, I have my doubts about him over the trip and think better value can be found elsewhere. Bacardys is one I like, He is a previous winner of the Champion Bumper, was well fancied here last year when a horse fell in front of him and took him out of the race, he bounced back to win impressively at Punchestown. This season has not gone to plan having disappointed over fences but back over hurdles on better ground and over this trip I think he could be a shock winner, 10/1 fill your boots.

Gold Cup – I’m going to make this very simple, if Our Duke puts in a clear round of jumping he wins. Jessica Harrington now relies solely on Our Duke having withdrawn Sizing John after a late setback. It is a big ask for the Irish Grand National winner but he bounced back to form at Gowran Park recently and looks to be back to his best. Native River looks best of the home brigade and he has had a nice preparation and will love the word soft in the going description. Might Bite will be strongly fancied but will he get up the hill over this extended distance? Killultagh Vic and Road To Respect are others that will be fancied. I’ll stick with Our Duke at 8/1 for Mrs Harrington and Robbie Power.

The Handicaps at Cheltenham can prove a mine field but we will give it our best shot with some each-way selections. On the opening day Singlefarmpayment is quietly fancied to go one better than last season when he finished second at the Festival. He has had some jumping problems but connections are confident this has now been sorted and a big run is expected from this Tom George trained gelding at 8/1. On Wednesday the Fred Winter is a race I like, Act Of Valour who was previously trained in Ireland on the flat has the right credentials to take home the prize. Trained by  Paul Nicholls is sure to be well tuned for the task on hand and 8/1 again looks a fair each-way bet. On Thursday we look to a previous festival winner in Tully East to put some money in the wallet. He has been trained with this race in mind and caught the eye over a shorter trip at Leopardstown recently, he can go in again for trainer Alan Fleming and owner Barry O’Connell currently his odds are 7/1. Come Friday we could be crying out for a get out of jail card and Dortmund Park in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Hurdle might be the answer. A very impressive winner at Thurles he came up against a very useful field when fourth at Leopardstown and at 12/1 he could prove another Festival winner for Gigginstown House Stud and Gordon Elliott.

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