What’s your ante-post fancy for Cheltenham?
Venetia Williams, successful at Newbury last weekend with her biggest win since Mon Mome in the 2009 Grand National, has found success at the Cheltenham Festival elusive in recent years, her last winner coming in 2013 in the Festival Plate with Carrickboy under the late lamented Liam Treadwell. In the past 20 years, she’s been a force to be reckoned with in top handicaps, whilst the big money required to purchase a Gold Cup horse has not found its way to Kings Caple.
That said, had the Mares Hurdle been around in the days of Lady Rebecca, we might not have thought Quevega’s achievement quite so extraordinary at the time, and with five Festival successes to her tally, Venetia’s no slouch.
The simple facts are that with one or two notable exceptions, horses to win the Grade I championship races at the Festival nowadays are housed in a diminishing number of yards, where trainers are entrusted with big money purchases. As on the Flat, where the bloodstock giants of Coolmore and Godolphin do battle week after week in big races, the concentration of power at the very top of the racing tree is very narrow.
Cheltenham is the home of National Hunt racing across the world and a reference point for the sport the world over. Every March the Cheltenham Festival showcases the sport to a worldwide audience, starting with the cheer that announces the start of the Supreme Novices Hurdle, next run on March 15th . There ensue 28 races in total, divided into four consecutive days, that create more discussion about racing in the UK than any other meeting, bar none.
The four major races of the fixture inaugurated as the National Hunt Meeting in 1908 have been developed over time. Appropriately, the Gold Cup was the first to appear, in 1924, followed by the Champion Hurdle three years later. The Stayers Hurdle and Queen Mother Champion Chase are relative newcomers, vestiges of the eighties. You can check full course details, directions and race histories here.
Ante-post betting odds for featured Cheltenham races
Do you want to place bets on the Cheltenham Festival Races? If yes, then go through these ante-post betting odds by popular bookmakers:
After winning the Champion Hurdle last March, Honeysuckle was unsurprisingly installed as favourite for the 2022 renewal. Nothing to date has altered pundits’ view that she is a rock-solid favourite for the race, and she did nothing to dissuade punters from that view in her demolition of the Irish challenge against her in Sunday’s Hattons Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, named after a 3 time winner of the Champion Hurdle (1949-51). At even money already, she won’t make you rich, but if the best the British can conjure up has manifested itself in the dead-heat between Epatante and Not So Sleepy, then she’s unlikely to be much troubled come March.
Allaho is another last champion from last year and could win the Ryanair Chase Steeplechase again in 2022. The Willie Mullins trained seven year old is the winner of three of his eight chase starts, and could yet appear in the longer Gold Cup instead. This is one of many Mullins horses that will be urging the injured Paul Townend to get back in the plate in time for March.
Last season’s Gold Cup winner proved a rare erroneous choice for media darling Rachael Blackmore when she opted to ride A Plus Tard instead last March. She may well be faced with the same enviable choice this time around after A Plus Tard’s demolition of the British Gold Cup candidacy in the Betfair Chase this month.
Minella Endo was outjumped by a typical gutsy performance from Frodon in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in October. Frodon certainly appears to be among the leading British contenders to retain the Gold Cup on home turf. Several of the others have yet to show their hand, notably Chantry House and Champ.
The quirky nature of Ludlow’s course means you’ll be unlikely to see a Gold Cup horse here any time soon. However, it’s more likely that you’ll find a handicapper at a decent price, or even the winner of the Foxhunter among those running at our fixtures. This is the charm of a day at one of the best of Britain’s country racecourses. And you can gloat all winter about a horse you saw at Ludlow in mid-winter as it is led into that hallowed Winner’s Enclosure in just under 4 months time.