An Early Look At The Cheltenham Favourites
March 03, 2017
With less than two weeks to go until the Cheltenham Festival, the countdown is well and truly on for what is considered the pinnacle of National Hunt Racing. Taking place over four days against the backdrop of 350 acres of picturesque, rolling countryside, this spectacular racecourse pulls in the punters with hundreds of millions of pounds being gambled throughout the event.
It is second only to the Grand National in prize money and attracts huge crowds who flock in their droves to this extravaganza which guarantees world-class action as the cream of the crop from horses to jockeys to trainers aim to stake their name in Cheltenham folklore.
Every race is contested at a breathtaking intensity – in particular look out for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Stan James Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup – the latter being one of the richest races on the circuit. Here we take a look at a number of the outstanding candidates and early favourites that are dominating the media and betting markets.
The New One
The New One is a leading contender in the market for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. This will be his fourth attempt having fared no better than third in his previous efforts. The previous two winners are absent and jockey Nigel Twiston-Davies believes his nine-year-old bay gelding could capitalise on the lack of strength in depth.
Prestbury Park seems to be a venue that favours The New One who has only tasted defeat once this season, when Yanworth had his measure in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. He notched up a record-equalling third victory in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham and most recently the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.
Douvan is as short as 1-4 in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and in Willie Mullins he has the most successful Festival trainer of all time with 15 of his 48 winners coming in the last two years.
He has already triumphed at the Festival, in the Supreme and the Arkle, but this will be his biggest test to date as expectation continues to grow following his remarkable run of 13 consecutive victories – the last coming at Punchestown in February.
Mullins believes in time that his seven-year old could surpass the achievements of legendary hurdler Hurricane Fly.
A poor misjudgement three from the finish scuppered Cue Card’s chance of success in the Gold Cup last year after putting himself within touching distance of victory. Reversing his fortune this time round would make him the oldest Gold Cup winner since What a Myth in 1969 and he enters Cheltenham in good form, emerging victorious in two of his last three outings at Haydock and Ascot respectively to illustrate his peak years are not yet beyond him.
Colin Tizzard’s 11-year-old is a incredible steeplechaser having amassed over £1.2m prize-money throughout his glittering career and would be a popular winner if he can finally eradicate this glaring omission from his resumé.