The Cheltenham Festival is the showpiece event of the annual National Hunt season. It’s one of the most awaited Sporting event of the year. It normally features the finest jumps and horses in Britain and Ireland. The Festival will take place over four days from Tuesday March 12 to Friday March 15. The National Hunt Season requires horses to jump fences and ditches. There are no small races when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival. But some are bigger than others.. The showpiece on day one is the Champion Hurdle, which Buveur d’Air will attempt to win for the third consecutive year, while day two sees Altior bid to retain his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown. The third day sees the Ryanair Chase and Stayers Hurdle share top billing, before the finest staying chasers go for glory in the Gold Cup.
The first Cheltenham Gold Cup was held in 1819, but as a three-mile race without jumps. However, the modern version we see with jumps first ran in 1924. The festival is the first of 30 major events being held this year by the British Horse Racing Authority. Last year’s winner of the Gold Cup was Native River, trained by Colin Tizzard and rode by jockey Richard Johnson. Native River held off strong competition from favourite Might Bite to secure the Blue Ribbon.
The betting odds have been released by William Hill ahead of the festival, revealing Presenting Percy as the early favourite at odds of 4/1. Last year’s winner Native River is second favourite at 9/2 with Kemboy (8/1), Clan Des Obeaux (9/1) and last year’s favourite Might Bite and Road To Respect (both 12/1) complete the top five. With the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, there will be a chance to draw in the Cheltenham Festival 2019 Betting crowd. The race horses, Native River, Might Bite and Presenting Percy are all being hotly discussed ahead of next year. The defending champion Penhill leads a record-breaking 51 entries for the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The Irish-trained 2018 winner is the current 5-1 favourite to land the race again this year. Last year’s runner-up Supasundae will re-oppose again this March for Jessica Harrington.
There are a record 23 Irish-trained entries for the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle, with Penhill’s trainer Willie Mullins, Ireland’s champion Jump trainer, responsible for 11 contenders in total. The Mullins’ contingent also features 10-time G1 scorer Faugheen, the 2015 Unibet Champion Hurdle victor, who relished the step up to three miles when beating Penhill by 13 lengths at the Punchestown Festival in April, and the 2018 Coral Cup victor Bleu Berry.
Gordon Elliot has entered the likes of Apple’s Jade, Samcro and Pallasator; as well as last year’s JCB Triumph Hurdle scorer Farclas. The leading British-trained hope is Paisley Park, following victories in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 22 and the valuable Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock the previous month.
Sam Spinner looked a potential star when landing the same two races as Paisley Park last season, making all both times under Joe Colliver, but failed to replicate that form when favourite for the 2018 Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle, finishing fifth.
Colin Tizzard’s two Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle entries include Kilbricken Storm, winner of the 2018 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles at The Festival.
Champ showed plenty of potential when winning a handicap hurdle impressively at Newbury, Nicky Henderson’s Champ propelled to the head of the ante-post betting for the 2019 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by storming to a two-and-a-half length victory in the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown Park.
Tom George’s Black Op ended last season landing victory in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, but was sent novice chasing at the start of this season. However, disappointing runs over fences at Exeter and at Cheltenham has seen the George team elect to switch Black Op back to hurdles for the rest of the season.
The 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup has a murky look to it from a betting perspective with ante-post favourite Presenting Percy yet to have run this season, and a host of the leading British-trained runners failing to sparkle this season. So, Paul Nicholls could look to propel a left-field candidate into the picture and Frodon will aim to book his Gold Cup spot next weekend with a decent run in the Cotswold Chase.