The Cheltenham Festival to the jump horse racing fraternity is the only horse meet that really counts, the only one that matters, and means the world to connections.
The meeting kicks off on Tuesday, March 12th, with the first race being the Supreme Novice Hurdle over 2 miles for hurdlers. The race kicks off proceedings with a loud “bang” before leading up to Friday when the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The blue ribbon event is run over three miles, two furlongs, for Europe’s best Chasers.
The festival is seemingly unrivaled. It really is like a carnival, and many cross the water from Ireland and France to be a part of this glorious occasion! It’s the punters versus the old enemy (the bookies) going head-to-head, toe-to-toe, for four magical days of racing at the home of jump racing. Millions of wagers are placed, thousands of pints of beer are consumed, making this ‘party time’ to the lucky few who are there. This is such a very,very special meeting that trainers will train their horses to the minute for them to peak on a particular day in a certain race, as it means everything to the owners, jockeys and trainers of the horses.
I have watched this great show since the 80’s, and every year without fail it produces more drama, twists and turns than any BBC period or crime show – this is the real deal. There’s no beating ’round the bush. This is a production of sheer excitement that doesn’t slow down from the moment it starts to its climax. The who’s who of jump racing are there, from the top trainers like Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, etc, to the best jockeys like Ruby Walsh, and multiple champion Tony McCoy. Even the Queen mother has a race named after her. This really is the crème de la crème of racing for jumping purists.
Picking winners is never easy, hell it’s almost impossible at times, but that has never stopped me from pointing you in the right direction. I will pick two selections for each of the four days – so here goes (fingers crossed)……
Day 1 Supreme Novice: “My Tent or Your”s is very short at 6-4, but turned a normally competitive 2-mile race at Newbury into an absolute procession, so I just cannot see it getting beat. The highlight of the first day is the Champion “Hurdle Hurricane Fly” at 6-4, which seems a very skinny price considering he is a quality horse. He was beaten in this race last year so will take him on with his conqueror Rock on Ruby at 6-1, who loves the track and its stiff finish. That’s good enough for me.
Day 2: Today’s highlight is The Queen Mother Chase, which classy Sprinter “Sacre” will hack up in, but at 1-4 will leave race alone. The RSA chase will be won by Dynaste. At around 9-4 he is a very fair price get on! The bumper, the only flat race of the meeting, has been dominated by trainer Willie Mullins and I fancy his unbeaten Union Dues at 12-1 to oblige.
Day3 or St Paddy’s Thursday: “Shutthefrontdoor” can go well at 8-1 in the Pertemps final. Second tip “Cantlow in Byrne” group plate will go close, and has won last two well at 10-1.
Day4: First tip “Cash and Go” at 16-1 is a bit of a flyer, but I really reckon the normally quick 2-mile county hurdle will be ideal for him.
Next is the Gold Cup, in my eyes there could be a surprise in the shape of “The Giant Bolster” at 20-1, who second last year and will love the better ground, likes the track, jumps well and will go very close indeed.
So there are my tips. Be lucky and enjoy this amazingly special occasion.