Coral Horse Racing

The biggest jump racing week of the year is now upon us as hundreds of thousands of racegoers from all over the globe descend on Gloucestershire as the top national hunt horses prepare to battle over four exciting days of action at the Cheltenham Festival.

Although Cheltenham in March has always been one of the biggest national hunt meets of the season, it has also now grown to become one of the biggest sporting events as a whole in the UK, with some bookmakers estimating that upwards of £350m will be wagered by punters across the festival as a whole.

The average attendance each day at the festival has grown from around 24,000 over the three days back in the early 1980s, to over 60,000 spectators expected on each of the four days of action this week.

In recent times, the fact that the event is always held to coincide with the St Patrick’s Day celebrations combined with the sheer number of Irish-trained horses that have achieved success in the meetings, there is always a very strong Gaelic presence at the event and many thousands of Irish, whether travelling from home or living elsewhere, will be in attendance at the event.

The reason for such interest from the Emerald Isle is easy to understand, back in 1989, there were no Irish stabled winners at the festival, however in 2017, a new record of 19 wins for Irish horses, from the 28 races, was set. Furthermore, there are strong rumours that in 2018 that record could well be broken, which explains the huge interest for those hailing from across the Irish Sea.

Not all good news

While the excitement builds for Tuesday’s start at the Festival, it hasn’t been all Channel 4/1 Offer Bet365good news for festival goers over recent weeks. Several high-profile horses including last year’s Gold Cup winner Sizing John, have been ruled out of the meeting, which makes it third year in row that the ante-post Gold Cup favourite has been ruled out of the race.

Other horses set to miss the festival this year include Thistlecrack (for a second successive season), Waiting Patiently, Sceau Royal and Willoughby Court will all also not be present.

There’s also been a little consternation about the going at the course this year. Early in March, the “Beast from the East” weather system dumped hundreds of tonnes of snow on the course, which has since thawed and combined with the recent rainy weather, means that the going is set to be softest at the festival for 25 years.

Experts reckon the ground will be at best, very soft or even heavy, which could well impact the chances of horses that prefer running on firmer ground.  The bookies however will be happy at that news with the more rain-soaked festivals tending to produce more longer-odds winners.

Outlined below are the four days of the festival and each of the races taking place each day. I will then focus in on one of the classic races being held each day and give you our tips on which horses to back in each of the top races.

Available fixtures at Bet365 Sports


Cheltenham Festival Schedule

  • Tuesday 13th March – Champion Day

1.30pm Supreme Novices Hurdle (2m, ½f)

2.05pm Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase (2m)

2.40pm Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase (3m ½f)

3.20pm Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (2m 1/2f)

There’s one big name on everybody’s lips for this year’s Champion Hurdle and that is last year’s winner of this race, Nickey Henderson’s Buveur D’Air. Ridden by Barry Geraghty, the gelding has been in superb form this season, winning all of his three races, two of them Grade One wins, without ever looking in serious trouble and totally dominating his rivals.

Such is his quality that his best price is currently around 4/7 and his nearest challengers are likely to be the talented Faugheen (6/1), Yorkhill (10/1) and the two 14/1 shots, Wicklow Brave and My Tent or Yours.

4.00pm Mares Hurdle (2m 4f)

4.40pm National Hunt Chase (4m)

5.15pm Novice’s Handicap Chase (2m 4½f)

  • Wednesday 14th March – Ladies Day

1.30pm Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (2m 5f)

2.05pm RSA Steeple Chase (3m 1/2f)

2.40pm Coral Cup (2m 5f)

3.20pm BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase (2m)

Last year’s surprise winner of this race was Special Tiara but this year he is a 28/1 shot to win the race and best viewed as an outside bet, due to the fact that there are three class runners in this field that all look to have a far better chance of success.

Altior is the even money favourite and it is easy to see why with the class he has shown in his performances this season. His main challengers will be Min and Douvan, the latter likely would be shorter odds if not for a lack of form and fitness this season and although Douvan has the quality to win the race at his best, his lack of fitness may be a worry here.

4.00pm Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (3m 7f)

4.40pm Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (2m 1/2f)

5.15pm Weatherbys Champion Bumper (2m ½f)

  • Thursday 15th March – St Patrick’s DayBet365 Sport horse racing promos

1.30pm JLT Novices’ Steeple Chase (2m 5f)

2.05pm Pertemps Final (3m)

2.40pm Ryanair Chase (2m 5f)

3.20pm Ladbrokes World Hurdle (3m)

Of all the big races taking place at Cheltenham this week it is the Ladbrokes World Hurdle which is perhaps the most open of them all. There are a number of horses which stand a great chance including Yanworth (4/1), who is returning to Hurdles after jumping well over fences, while the current favourite, just is the 7/2 shot Supasundae.

Sam Spinner (4/1), Apple’s Jade (11/2), Penhill (8/1) and The New One (9/1) will all feel like they have a chance while UnowhatImeanharry (10/1) will have his backers. For me, the horse to watch though is L’ami Serge (11/1) from Nicky Henderson’s in-form stable. The horse has great form at Cheltenham in the past and has come on a lot since those performances over the past few years.

4.00pm Byrne Group Plate Handicap Steeple Chase (2m 5f)

4.40pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase (3m 1 1/2f)

5.15pm St Patrick’s Derby Charity Race (1m 5f)

  • Friday 16th March – Cheltenham Gold Cup Day

1.30pm JCB Triump Hurdle (2m 1f)

2.05pm Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2m 1f)

2.40pm Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (3m)

3.20pm Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase (3m 2 1/2f)

Without Sizing John and Thistlecrack (again) for this year’s race, this has opened up the betting and there are three horses that seem to be popular with the punters. Our Duke has improved with each run this season and he looks a solid 13/2 shot.

Might Bite is the 3/1 favourite but may find the heavier ground not to his liking, although he has won on such ground in the past. Native River will see his price shorten as the ground gets heavier, but for me, the one to watch here is Road to Respect at 9/1, who has some outstanding form and has proven himself over the distance and ground.

4.00pm Foxhunter Steeple Chase (3m 2 1/2f)

4.40pm Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle (2m 4 1/2f)

5.15pm Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Steeple Chase (2m ½f)

With 28 races over the four days, live coverage on TV, there’s plenty of fantastic betting you can enjoy at one of the biggest horse racing meets of the season.