When we speak of poor preparations for a racing festival, it usually suggests a difficult time for a particular trainer or horse. But the Cheltenham Festival (12th-15th March) has had some knocks over the past few months that have hit the organizers hard.
For a start, there was the criticism from some owners over horse welfare, after 2018 saw an uncommonly large number of equine deaths at the racecourse. Paul and Clare Rooney even threatened to pull their horses from the Festival all together.
And then, there was the equine flu outbreak, which swept across Britain and parts of Europe in January and late-February. That threatened to derail the plans of many trainers who use the time to get horses into peak condition for the Festival. That, thankfully, was contained, after authorities acted swiftly to lockdown stables and ensure a mass policy of vaccination.
Authorities lauded for response to flu outbreak
In the end, there seems to have been no real damage to the preparation after the flu outbreak, and any criticisms of the racecourse management seems to have faded away. In short, Cheltenham 2019 will go ahead, seemingly bigger and better than ever.
To be fair, there are some mouth-watering clashes at the showcase of national hunt racing. Most of the buzz lately has centered around the Champion Hurdle showdown between Buveur D’Air and Apple’s Jade. The former has won the last two Champion Hurdles, and is given odds of 7/4 generally for the hat-trick.
Apple’s Jade, a brilliant mare, is a huge danger to Buveur D’Air’s crown. Arguably the horse showing the best form in British and Irish jumps racing, there were other options at the Festival, including the Mares’ Hurdle, but connections have been almost forced to go for the ‘big one’. 9/4 odds can be found at Coral, but some sportsbooks have made Apple’s Jade and Buveur D’Air co-favorites. It could be special.
Gold Cup looks like a very open contest
You can get some lucrative free bets within the latest offers for Cheltenham Festival races, and it might be wise to use them on the biggest event of the festival – the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It looks very open this year, with the ante post favorite changing a number of times over the last few months. Presenting Percy is the current market leader, given odds of 7/2 by Betfair.
However, there has been a huge surge in support for Clan Des Obeaux, the winner of the King George VI Chase at Christmas. In a nutshell, the King George win was put down by many observers as a fluke, given his iffy form in the past, but Clan Des Obeaux followed it up with a tremendous win last week. He has amazing stamina and is a superb jumper, making the 9/2 price from Bet365 look tempting for a horse who has Gold Cup winner written all over him.
There are, of course, lots of other intriguing races, 28 in total: Altior will look to once again stamp his authority all over the Champion Chase, given odds of just 4/11 to do so; the great Faugheen will try to punctuate the end of his career in style with a victory in the Stayers’ Hurdle, with Willie Mullins’ charge given odds of 12/1 by William Hill to win one last great race. There is also the Arkle, which features some brilliant novice chasers; and the Ryanair Chase, fast becoming one of the popular races at the Festival.