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PLEASE NOTE: New Customers can get Might Bite at an enhanced 70/1 to win the Gold Cup. Max Stake £1. Winnings paid in free bets. Full T&Cs Apply. 18+|Gamble Aware.
Very few sporting events each year produce the excitement and anticipation quite like the Cheltenham Festival. Four days of the best jump racing action each March sees leading contenders from Britain and Ireland do battle at the picturesque Prestbury Park.

A total of 14 Grade One races are contested across the four days including four premier championship races named the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers' Hurdle and Gold Cup. It is quite simply the biggest jump racing festival of year and routinely brings tens-of-thousands of passionate racegoers to Gloucestershire for what is regarded by many as the sport’s greatest four days of action.

cheltenham gold cup

The gruelling, stamina-sapping test that the Gold Cup represents is a unique assignment for the steeplechaser. A fine balance of good jumping, pace and stamina is a necessity for winning Cheltenham’s premier contest. It is a feat very few have replicated on numerous occasions. Golden Miller won the Gold Cup five times between 1932 and 1936 but only three chasers have strung together such a sequence since in Cottage Rake, Arkle and Best Mate.

The Gold Cup is a race that produces memorable stories of success year on year. In 2015, Coneygree became the first novice chaser in over 40 years to win the contest when leading from starting post to finishing line under jockey Nico De Boinville to win for the smaller training establishment and handler Mark Bradstock.

2018 Gold Cup Star-Rating Guide

Our expert takes a look at the field set to line up in this years’ Gold Cup and rates each runners’ chances of succeeding at the Cheltenham Festival out of five stars.

There may be 28 races during the Cheltenham Festival, but there’s no doubting the most prestigious and historic of the lot is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Stars have been born, legacies commentated and history has been rewritten in this fantastic staying chase and we look set for a memorable renewal on the final day of the 2018 Festival.

During the regular season, various trials races have been staged across Britain and Ireland. While some have seen their Gold Cup dreams dashed, several potential champion have come forward and the ante-post market looks packed with quality.

Our expert has put together this star rating guide for the Gold Cup – taking a look at each contenders in detail and rated their chances of triumphing at the Cheltenham Festival out of five stars.

CUE CARD – 33/1 William Hill

Colin Tizzard’s teenager began his farewell tour with a fantastic display in the Ascot Chase, pushing Waiting Patiently all the way to the post. Tizzard and owner, Jean Bishop confirmed their 12-year-old would be retired after competing at Cheltenham and Aintree and the team will be hoping for a change of luck in this year’s Gold Cup.

Cue Card was traveling as well as anyone before falling at the third-last in 2016. The same fence forced another race ending error 12 months ago, but Paddy Brennan was already working hard to stay in-touch before tasting turf for the second successive season. A fairy-tale ending to a wonderful career is not out of the question, but Cue Card’s best years are clearly behind him and it would take an incredible performance for Tizzard’s teenager to challenge.

CUE CARD RATING ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

Cue Card (left) battling hard against Waiting Patiently (left) in the Ascot Chase.


DEFINITLY RED – 16/1 Ladbrokes

It seems a heck of a long time since Danny Cook pulled Definitly Red up in last year’s Grand National. Brian Ellison will have been very pleased with the way his charge was traveling, but a faller caused Definitly Red to swerve off line and, fearing an injury, Cook decided to called time on their Aintree adventure.

A distant third place finish on his reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase was followed by two Grade Two victories in the Many Clouds Chase and the Cotswold Chase. Definitly Red led them along at a sedate pace in the Many Clouds and turned it into a real test of stamina. It was a much truer race at Cheltenham, but the fact that runner-up American and Bristol De Mai have decided to swerve the Gold Cup has to count against him. 

Brian Ellison’s charge is in the form of his life and handled the Cheltenham track well in the Cotswold, but the Gold Cup will be a giant leap forward and Definitly Red could struggle.

DEFINITLY RED RATING ⭐ 3 ⭐

DJAKADAM – 33/1 BetVictor

As Djakadam surged onto the lead, Ruby Walsh may have thought he had one hand on the Gold Cup last year. A shuddering error two from home opened the door for Sizing John and the two-time runner-up had to settle for more Cheltenham disappointment. Willie Mullins will have been heartened and encouraged by his final run of the campaign at Punchestown, but sadly, the nine-year-old has endured an underwhelming year.

A resounding defeat at the hands of Sizing John in the John Durkan was followed by a poor performance in the Christmas Chase, where he was pulled up well before home. He failed to mount a winning assault in the Irish Gold Cup, yet his jumping was much more convincing as he finished third and he has plenty of history in Cheltenham’s showpiece event. Plus, his current odds are very attractive.

DJAKADAM RATING ⭐ 3 ⭐

Edwulf (centre, red cap) produced a miraculous display to win the Irish Gold Cup.


EDWULF – 25/1 Coral

It's been a rollercoaster 12 months for Edwulf. Joseph O’Brien thought he has lost his star stayer when he collapsed in the National Hunt Chase and the young trainer was delighted to see his charge make a full recovery. Retirement plans were soon thrown out the window and Edwulf made a low-key return in the Christmas Chase, where he failed to finish the course. Five weeks later, Edwulf’s miracle recovery was complete as the 25/1 shot powered home to win the Irish Gold Cup.

Although Edwulf holds entry into both the Gold Cup and the Grand National, O’Brien will be very mindful of his star’s wellbeing before committing him to any specific date. If Edwulf can repeat the performance he produced at Leopardstown, he could challenge for the places – that’s if he even makes it to National Hunt racing’s premier chase.

EDWULF RATING ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

KILLULTAGH VIC – 10/1 William Hill

Everyone remembers the incredible recovery Killultagh Vic made at Leopardstown in 2016, dragging himself up off the canvas to snatch a Grade Two victory from the jaws of defeat. The last 18 months have been riddled with injuries, but Willie Mullins declared his nine-year-old was fit to return in December.

After claiming a smart victory over the smaller obstacles, Mullins threw Killultagh Vic into the Irish Gold Cup. Paul Townend’s mount was traveling best of all turning for home, but a crashing fall at the second last left Willie and his team with their head in their hands. Thankfully, Killultagh Vic is expected to make a full recovery and take his place in the Gold Cup. It looks like he’s retained most of his old talent, but the time spent off the track is a worry and it’s hard to say how he will bounce back after that emphatic tumble at Leopardstown.

KILLULTAGH VIC RATING ⭐ 3 ⭐

Nico de Boinville celebrates after guiding Might Bite to victory in King George.


MIGHT BITE – 4/1 Paddy Power

Worryingly for his Cheltenham rivals, Might Bite didn’t have to be at his best to win the King George. Nicky Henderson’s charge clearly didn’t enjoy the softer ground and his jumping was very safe, but he still had enough class to comfortably see off Double Shuffle and Tea For Two. Might Bite has been given a nice break to recharge the batteries and the prospect of good spring ground will be extremely favourable.

Some will say Might Bite hasn’t beaten much over fences – both his Grade One victories came over Whisper and no Gold Cup rivals displayed their colours in the King George. Yet, you cannot deny the nine-year-old has looked much more composed this season and it’s unlikely we will see the dramatic swerve towards the stables that almost cost him the RSA.

He was fantastic for 90% of the RSA and showed incredible battling qualities to get his nose to the line first. Conditions should suit him down to the ground and Nicky Henderson will have him primed for Festival season. Might Bite is the leading candidate heading into Cheltenham.

MIGHT BITE RATING ⭐ 4.5 ⭐

MINELLA ROCCO – 20/1 Ladbrokes

Minella Rocco has been fairly anonymous since finishing fourth as the favourite in the Irish Daily Star Chase. Jonjo O’Neill’s chase finished a decent fourth in a the Christmas Chase, a result which sits between two failures in the BetVictor Handicap Chase and the Irish Gold Cup.

Minella Rocco’s form figures are similar to those he carried into last year’s Gold Cup, where he stormed home to finish closest to Sizing John. The 2016 National Hunt Chase winner comes alive in the spring and he clearly enjoys the challenge presented by Cheltenham. While some will be put off by his poor seasonal form, Minella Rocco is a challenger not to be overlooked.

MINELLA ROCCO RATING ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

Native River clearing the water jump on his way to winning the Denman Chase.


NATIVE RIVER – 6/1 Paddy Power

Native River’s achievements last season shouldn’t be underestimated. He came into the Gold Cup on the back of wins in the Ladbrokes Trophy, the Welsh National and the Denman Chase. Despite expending plenty of energy during those gruelling races, the eight-year-old had enough grit and determination to hold on to a spot in the places.

Tizzard rewarded his top stayer with an extended holiday, completely bypassing the first half of the campaign. Native River returned in the Denman Chase earlier this month and comfortably saw off Cloudy Dream from the front of the field. Richard Johnson has struck up a nice understanding with Native River and the duo will fancy their chances heading back to Cheltenham.

Colin Tizzard will need to get his tactics spot on if he wants to get his hands on the Gold Cup, but the rest he gave Native River should pay off during the spring and he will be a prime challenger for the second season running.

NATIVE RIVER RATING ⭐ 4 ⭐

OUR DUKE – 9/1 Paddy Power

A lot was expected of the runaway Irish Grand National winner as he went to post in the JNWine Champion Chase as the odds-on favourite. Harrington was dismayed to see Our Duke labour over the line last. A back problem was discovered, and he didn’t return to action until the Irish Gold Cup.

Robbie Powers’ mount clattered pretty much every fence around Leopardstown but was staying on strongly as he passed the post fourth. He dropped back in trip and conceded weight to dangerous novice Presenting Percy in the Red Mills Chase, displaying speed and class in abundance to claim a much-needed victory. More progress is expected between now and Cheltenham, but Our Duke is progressing nicely and should put himself in the frame.

OUR DUKE RATING ⭐ 4 ⭐


OUTLANDER
– 33/1 Coral

Outlander has always been talented, but inconsistency has often held him back. It looked like this season would be the same old story, as Gordon Elliott’s charge finished near the rear of the field in the Irish Daily Star, but he produced a fantastic display to claim a surprise victory in the JNWine Champion Chase a few weeks later.

Jack Kennedy’s mount hated the heavy ground at Haydock, but responded by running two good races back-to-back. First, crossing the line third in the Christmas Chase, before battling with Edwulf all the way to the line at the Dublin Racing Festival. The chances of Outlander stringing together three strong performances is unlikely, but he brings solid form into the Gold Cup and his current odds are extremely attractive.

OUTLANDER RATING ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

ROAD TO RESPECT – 10/1 BetVictor

Since winning the Brown Advisory Plate at the Festival last year, Road To Respect has gone from strength-to-strength. He ended last season with a smart victory over Yorkhill at Fairyhouse and returned to action with a bang at Punchestown, storming clear to win the Irish Daily Star. Outlander produced an excellent display to defeat him in the JNWine Champion Chase, but Sean Flanagan’s mount was far from disgraced in second.

Despite his excellent form and obvious improvement, Road To Respect carried a lengthy price into the Christmas Chase. As rivals fell away around him, Meade’s charge produced a composed display to outlast two Gigginstown stablemates and claim a second career Grade One. He brings the best form with him across the pond and has winning memories around Cheltenham. Road To Respect is the ideal each-way candidate and the best bet in this year’s Gold Cup.

ROAD TO RESPECT RATING ⭐ 5 ⭐

Road To Respect leaping the last en-route to winning the Brown Advisory Plate at Cheltenham last season.


SIZING JOHN – 6/1 William Hill

Sizing John enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the staying ranks last season and was hugely impressive in capturing the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Jessica Harrington’s mount looked as good as ever in dispatching Djakadam on his reappearance in the John Durkan, but last season’s heroics clearly caught up with him in the Christmas Chase, where he failed to challenge and cantered over the line seventh.

No medical problems were discovered following that festive flop, forcing Harrington into giving her stable star an unplanned mid-season break. Plenty of horses have claimed Gold Cup glory on the back of similar lay-offs and Sizing John’s reappearance record is very strong. Others Cheltenham rivals have filled the column inches in his absence, but Sizing John is too classy to be forgotten.

SIZING JOHN RATING ⭐ 4 ⭐

TOTAL RECALL – 16/1 Ladbrokes

Weeks after arriving from Sandra Hughes’ yard, Total Recall began life in County Carlow with a strong winning performance in the Munster National. Mullins sent his recruit to Newbury for the first time in December and he was subsequently backed into favouritism for the Ladbrokes Trophy. Whisper looked to have the victory in the bag, but Paul Townend timed his late charge to perfection to claim a historic victory for a jubilant Willie Mullins.

After pulling hard for much of the race, Total Recall warmed up for the spring with an excellent victory over hurdles at the Dublin Racing Festival. Total Recall’s odds have dropped since Mullins confirmed he would take in the Gold Cup en-route to the Grand National. Yet, all his form this season has come in handicap company, he could only beat Whisper by a neck when gaining a stone at the weights and he’s never stepped beyond Grade Three company over fences, let alone featured in a race with the size and stature of the Gold Cup.

TOTAL RECALL RATING ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

Robbie Power and Sizing John celebrating after their 2017 Gold Cup success.


⭐ CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP STAR RATING GUIDE ⭐

⭐ ROAD TO RESPECT – 5 ⭐
*
MIGHT BITE – 4.5
*
NATIVE RIVER – 4
SIZING JOHN – 4
OUR DUKE – 4
*
OUTLANDER – 3.5
MINELLA ROCCO – 3.5
*
KILLULTAGH VIC – 3
DJAKADAM – 3
DEFINITLY RED – 3
*
EDWULF – 2.5
CUE CARD – 2.5
TOTAL RECALL – 2.5

2018 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle Tips

Brian Healy looks ahead to Tuesday's Cheltenham Festival feature race, the Champion Hurdle. Can Buveur D'air retain his crown?


The big feature race of the first day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival is the two-mile Champion Hurdle which goest to post at 3.30pm as the fourth race of the afternoon on Festival Tuesday.

Boasting a classy field of runners headed by defending champion Buveur D’air, the Tuesday feature carries a winners’ prize in excess of £250,000 and the action will unfold live on ITV Racing.

A strong Irish challenge for this contest will be spearheaded by Willie Mullins’ Faugheen (6/1, Paddy Power) who won the race three years ago. The Germany gelding was robbed of a title defence by injury twelve months ago, but following a winning return with a defeat of Jezki at Punchestown, he has been beaten on both subsequent outings.

Having ran no sort of a race over Christmas, he found Supasundae too strong in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time, and on that evidence his powers may just be beginning to wane. While ‘the machine’ can’t be totally ruled out if back to his best and reunited with Ruby Walsh, his previous aura of invincibility has been dented although a big run wouldn’t come as a surprise.

Melon (16/1, William Hill) meanwhile doesn’t appear to have built on his return at Down Royal when winning the WKD Hurdle, and he has been beaten in both the International Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle since. 

The Medicean gelding finished behind his stablemate Faugheen, as well as the likes of Mick Jazz and Jezki, and this will demand more from him; on form he has a lot to make up.

Other Mullins entrants include Bapaume (66/1, William Hill) who was well beaten when last seen out in the Boyne Hurdle; but he may do better back at two miles. However, this is a big test; while Min (20/1, William Hill) has been campaigning over fences and a crack at the Champion Chase looks most likely for that one.

Yorkhill (12/1, William Hill) is an interesting contender if returning to hurdles, having disappointed over fences since winning the JLT Novices’ Chase here last term. The Presenting gelding is 2-2 at this venue, and while he has looked out of sorts over the larger obstacles, a return to hurdling and back at this venue could see him bounce back with a big performance. The Ryanair Chase and Champion Chase are both on his entries list however, so it remains to be seen where he will go.

Wicklow Brave (16/1, MarathonBet) beat My Tent Or Yours on his last hurdles start at Punchestown in April, and the Beat Hollow gelding has since acquitted himself with credit in a series of runs on the flat, although he came up well short in both the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup in later outings.

The nine-year old may lack the scope though to be competitive in this Grade One.

Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Arcenfete (100/1, Ladbrokes) and Identity Thief (66/1, Unibet) both face very stiff tasks if lining up; the latter finished sixth in this contest when Annie Power won the race in 2016, but he has been out of sort since winning a pair of chase contests back in October/November that year.

Having finished sixth behind Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle, he was beaten behind Forge Meadow in a Grade Three contest at Gowran Park in February. That form falls some way short of of what is required.

Arcenfete meanwhile has failed to beat a rival in two starts since arriving in Ireland from France, including when last of six in that Gowran Park contest.

Mick Jazz (33/1, Unibet) looks set to be Gordon Elliott’s sole runner in the race, with Apple’s Jade heading to the Mares’ Hurdle; the Blue Bresil gelding took advantage of falls to win the Ryanair Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, but he had no answer to Supasundae next time back there in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson can land the Champion Hurdle
Nicky Henderson can win another Champion Hurdle.
Nicky Henderson’s defending champion BUVEUR D’AIR (4/7, Paddy Power) looks hard to oppose as he bids to follow up his win in the race twelve months ago.

The Crillon gelding is unbeaten over hurdles since finishing third to stablemate Altior in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and he has racked up nine successive wins since, including when beating another of his stablemates in My Tent Or Yours to land this prize last term.

Henderson’s star had the same rival behind at Aintree in April, and having returned to action with a bloodless win in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, he has since posted further wins at Kempton and Sandown.

A strong traveller who jumps well, he looks sure to mount a strong defence of his crown, and his rivals will need to be at their best to topple him.

Stablemate My Tent Or Yours (10/1, Paddy Power) has an excellent record in this race, three-times finishing runner-up, and the eleven-year old Desert Prince gelding can give another good account having beaten The New One in the International Hurdle on his return from an eight-month absence.

His old injury which kept him off the track for 703 days looks to have robbed him of none of his ability given his results since, and he can post another big effort behind his more fancied stablemate; there are worse each-way shots in the Champion Hurdle field, and given his record in this race he could well make the podium again.

Henderson’s other potential runners, Verdana Blue (50/1, Ladbrokes), Call Me Lord (66/1, Unibet) and Charli Parcs (66/1, Paddy Power) are all very useful sorts in their own but their form falls some way below that required to win a Champion Hurdle, and they are hard to fancy.

The first named could go to the Mares’ Hurdle instead; while Call Me Lord holds an entry in the County Hurdle. That could be his target if he wins the Imperial Cup. Charlie Parcs meanwhile also has an entry in the County Hurdle, and the trio could well take up those other assignments rather than this Grade One.

Dan Skelton’s Ch’Tibello (33/1, William Hill) is held by a few of these on a line through The New One, having been beaten by that rival at Haydock two starts ago; subsequently runner-up again in the Kingwell Hurdle, he has plenty to find.

John Constable (50/1, Coral) meanwhile proved no match for Buveur D’air last time at Sandown, and Evan Williams’ charge faces a tough assignment; he had looked progressive previously until being well-beaten behind My Tent Or Yours here in the International Hurdle, and this will demand much more from him.

VERDICT


If Faugheen were to return to the sort of level that saw him win this race three years ago, then Willie Mullins would be sure to give defending champion BUVEUR D’AIR (4/7, Paddy Power) something to think about. However, with that one running poorly at Leopardstown over Christmas and then being turned over back there next time, his powers may be beginning to wane and the Crillon gelding can mount a successful title defence.

3-3 this term, Nicky Henderson’s charge impressed twelve months ago when taking this contest, and the seven year old could still have more improvement to come; he ought to prove hard to beat in his bid to hold onto his crown.

Stablemate My Tent Or Yours (10/1, Paddy Power) has finished runner-up in three Champion Hurdles, including last term when chasing home Buveur D’air. The Desert Prince gelding snapped a losing streak stretching back to February 2014 when scoring in the International Hurdle on his return in December, and a repeat of that effort ought to see him firmly in the race for places. 

He can reward each-way supporters with a big run, and he can bag another podium finish.

2018 CHAMPION HURDLE SELECTION - BUVEUR D’AIR (4/7, Paddy Power), My Tent Or Yours (10/1, Paddy Power)

2018 Stayers' Hurdle Tips

Brian Healy gives his big-race preview of Thursday's third day highlight at the Cheltenham Festival, the Stayers' Hurdle.


The big feature race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, the Stayers’ Hurdle will go to post at 3.30pm on Festival Thursday, and another classic contest ought to unfold for bragging rights over the three mile trip.

The fourth race of a seven race card on day three, a first prize in excess of £180,000 awaits the winner of this classy Grade One, and a big field will assemble for the premier staying hurdle which has been won by the likes of Thistlecrack, Big Buck’s, Inglis Drever and Baracouda in recent years. 

Supasundae (4/1, Paddy Power) won last season’s Coral Cup on this card, and Jessica Harrington’s charge has continued his progression, pushing Yanworth close at Aintree on his next start.

The Galileo gelding has run well on all three starts this term, unfortunate to twice bump into Apple’s Jade and then dropping to two miles to beat Faugheen at Leopardstown in February to win the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Sam Spinner
Sam Spinner.
He looks sure to give a good account back up in trip, while Sam Spinner (5/1, William Hill) has improved in leaps and bounds this term, and Jedd O’Keefe’s charge chases a hat-trick having blitzed rivals by a wide margin at Haydock prior to seeing off the likes of L’ami Serge and Unowhatimeanharry when winning the Long Walk Hurdle.

The World’s End (25/1, William Hill), Thomas Campbell (33/1, Coral) and last season’s runner-up Lil Rockerfeller were all behind him that day, and the lightly-raced Black Sam Bellamy gelding can continue to improve. It will be harder for him to boss this stronger field from the front, but he has passed every test asked of him thus far and with the potential for better still he can’t be ruled out especially if the ground comes up soft.

Unowhatimeanharry (14/1, Paddy Power) is perhaps best when fresh, so returning from a break he could do better than at Ascot last time; but he was soundly beaten behind Jedd O’Keefe’s charge, and last season’s third may struggle to reverse that form.

Lil Rockerfeller (25/1, Ladbrokes) was beaten at Fontwell recently in the National Spirit Hurdle; Neil King’s charge hasn’t built on his Ascot win in the Coral Hurdle, beaten a long way behind Sam Spinner in the Long Walk Hurdle prior to that Fontwell contest.

He ran a blinder to finish less than one length behind Nichols Canyon in this race twelve months ago, but he needs to bounce back from a couple of lesser runs if he’s to match that level of form. This looks a stronger renewal than the race twelve months ago, and while not out of things at his best he may well have to settle for minor honours again.

The New One (12/1, Coral) tries three miles for the first time, having come up short in the Champion Hurdle in the past few seasons; Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge shapes as if he will stay, and the high-class Kayf Tara gelding can post a big effort if he stays the longer trip.

He beat Ch’Tibello last time in the Haydock Champion Hurdle Trial, digging deep to get back up having been headed and looking beaten; he perhaps is just held back by his jumping on occasion though where he can put in an odd mistake, and while he is a classy performer he may well come up short against some proven stayers.

Ballyoptic.
Ballyoptic may take in the RSA Chase rather than the Stayers' Hurdle.
Ballyoptic
 (50/1, William Hill) meanwhile was pulled up in the race twelve months ago, and having finished fifth to Yanworth at Aintree, and then filling the same position behind Beer Goggles at Newton Abbot on his return he has embarked on a chasing career where despite winning twice over the larger obstacles he hasn’t been convincing.

He was held in several starts last term though behind Unowhatimeanharry, and that rival could again prove too strong for Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge who may return to hurdles for this contest although the RSA Chase looks a more likely target for the Old Vic gelding.  

Albert Bartlett winners don’t have a great record when stepping into the Stayers’ Hurdle, so last years’ winner of the novices’ stayers hurdle Penhill (10/1, Paddy Power) will have to step up. He hasn’t been seen since finishing runner-up to Champagne Classic at Punchestown, and Willie Mullins’ Mount Nelson gelding may need this first run.

Mullins may hold stronger claims with Bacardys (12/1, William Hill) who pulled up in last season’s Neptune Hurdle having been badly hampered by a faller and losing all chance; he had won both previous starts, which included the Deloitte, and he bounced back from that Festival mishap to score over Finian’s Oscar at Punchestown.

He has had two starts this term over fences, looking in need of the run at Naas prior to falling behind Snow Falcon at Leopardstown over Christmas and he has been absent since; reportedly working well at home, a return to hurdling could coincide with a big effort over the longer trip which is expected to suit the Coastal Path gelding.

Faugheen (16/1, William Hill) holds an entry in this contest, but he will surely go to the Champion Hurdle; while Let’s Dance (33/1, William Hill) won the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle twelve months ago, but the Poliglote mare has since found Augusta Kate (40/1, William Hill) and Bacardys both too strong since.

A Leopardstown winner over Christmas, she could only finish fifth behind Presenting Percy in the Galmoy Hurdle, shaping like a non-stayer, although the heavy ground probably wasn’t condusive to her posting her best.

Better ground would help, but she nevertheless has a lot more to do if taking in this contest and a crack at Apple’s Jade in the Mares’ Hurdle looks more likely for her. She also has a Coral Cup entry.

Finians’ Oscar (16/1, Unibet) pulled up when last seen, and a wind operation was talked about for the Oscar gelding who hasn’t looked altogether a natural chaser in earlier starts after running poorly at Cheltenham on his return to hurdles. He ran in snatches when failing to complete in the Cleeve Hurdle, possibly unsuited by the heavy ground; but he reportedly made a noise during the race and has undergone a surgery on his palate.

The JLT Novices’ Chase appears a more likely target for him in any case, and it would be a surprise to see him line up in this contest.

Lami Serge
L'ami Serge is proving hard to win with.
L’ami Serge
 (12/1, Ladbrokes) looks hard to win with, but she has gone close on all starts at this venue including when denied by a neck behind Arctic Fire in the County Hurdle last term; while Wholestone will need to step up on his defeat behind Agrapart in the Cleeve Hurdle although his course record marks him of some interest. He can improve, although he was beaten behind Penhill in the Albert Bartlett. Most of his winning has been done over shorter than three miles, so he could prove vulnerable back at this distance.

YANWORTH (5/1, Coral) bombed in last season’s Champion Hurdle, but he had looked increasingly last term as if he needed a stiffer test than two mile. Alan King’s charge subsequently beat Supasundae when upped to three miles to win at Aintree prior to embarking on the chasing trail this term.

The Norse Dancer gelding has won twice from four starts over fences, including last time in the Dipper Novices’ Chase, and he boasts an excellent Cheltenham record. Not given the greatest of rides when sent off favourite for the 2016 Neptune Hurdle - now the Ballymore - he was disqualified from last season’s Champion Hurdle having tested positive for a banned substance.

He beat Supasundae a shade cosily at Aintree, and there is a suspicion he may have more to offer over hurdles. A strong traveller, he ought to get the race run to suit, and he can post a big run reverting to hurdles.

Jer’s Girl (40/1, Coral) fell when still going ok behind Apple’s Jade in the Mares’ Hurdle last term, and she has acquitted herself well in all starts this term, finishing runner-up to Gordon Elliott’s wonder-mare again at Navan prior to finding La Bague Au Roi (20/1, Paddy Power) too strong at Kempton last time.

Gavin Cromwell’s charge also holds engagements in the Mares’ Hurdle again, as well as the Coral Cup, and the Jeremy mare is likely to take in one of those assignments. This looks too tough, and if she lines up for this contest then it is hard to see her coming out on top.

La Bague Au Roi similarly holds an entry in the Mares’ Hurdle as well as this contest, but Warren Greatrex could be tempted to let the Doctor Dino mare take her chance in this contest having won well at Ascot last time. 

She ran out an easy 16-length winner of the Warfield Hurdle, beating Sainte Ladylime, and while this demands more in an open Grade One, she would be in receipt of 7lbs from her rivals in what looks a fairly open renewal. 

Colin’s Sister (33/1, William Hill) beat Wholestone to win the West Yorkshire Hurdle on her return to action, but she has since been beaten in all starts which include behind the same rival in the Relkeel Hurdle, and again when beaten into third in the Cleeve Hurdle.

Fergal O’Brien’s charge faces a very tough ask in this company; while Old Guard (33/1, William Hill) has been resurgent this term and beat Lil Rockerfeller at Fontwell latest to post his third win of the season. The Notnowcato gelding would have stamina to prove over this longer trip, while a busy season may catch up to him; while he has something to find on form with Wholestone who comfortably had him in arrears in the Relkeel Hurdle.

Thomas Cambell, Knight Of Noir (100/1, Ladbrokes) and Lieutenant Colonel (100/1, Coral) all look up against it in this company and are hard to fancy; while Monalee (33/1, William Hill) heads the RSA Chase betting and it would be a surprise to see Henry de Bromhead’s charge in the line-up for this race.

VERDICT


The Stayers’ Hurdle looks wide open this year, and there are plenty holding solid claims; not least Supasundae and Sam Spinner. The latter in particular has looked a hugely progressive sort, beating a few potential rivals when claiming the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle.

However, YANWORTH (5/1, Coral) stepped up on his disappointing Champion Hurdle run - subsequently disqualified - when beating Supasundae at Aintree; he has been campaigning with some success over fences this term, winning the Dipper Novices’ Chase; but returning to hurdles, he could have more to offer over three miles, and with a good record at this venue - the Champion Hurdle excluded - then he can make a winning return to timber.

La Bague Au Roi looked classy when scoring at Ascot last time, and Warren Greatrex’s charge can continue to improve; she would be getting 7lbs from the boys if lining up here, and with this longer trip clearly to her liking, connections may be tempted to take their chance in this contest rather than clash with Apple’s Jade.

She could be worth an each-way interest in a pretty open renewal.

2018 STAYERS’ HURDLE SELECTION - YANWORTH (5/1, Coral), La Bague Au Roi (20/1, Paddy Power)

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Cheltenham Day 4 Tips & Results (Friday)

DATE & TIMERACEFAVOURITEODDS
17 Mar 13:30Triumph HurdleWinner: Defi du Seuil 5/2 Fall odds >
17 Mar 14:10County HurdleWinner: Arctic Fire 20/1all odds >
17 Mar 14:50AB Novices HurdleWinner: Penhill 16/1all odds >
17 Mar 15:30Gold CupWinner: Sizing John 7/1all odds >
17 Mar 16:10Foxhunter ChaseWinner: Pacha Du Polder 16/1all odds >
17 Mar 16:50Conditionals HurdleWinner: Champagne Classic 12/1all odds >
17 Mar 17:30Grand Annual ChaseWinner: Rock The World 10/1all odds >

Cheltenham's famous winners

The Cheltenham Festival was founded in 1860 when titled the Grand National Hunt meeting and was held at a number of different locations including Cheltenham. Since 1911, the Festival has been hosted at Prestbury Park and the course’s two courses, the Old Course and New Course. 

The Stayers Hurdle, formerly known as the World Hurdle, is Cheltenham’s oldest championship contest after being first run in 1912. The Gold Cup originated in 1924 and was regularly used by trainers as a prep-race for the Grand National. The Champion Hurdle was introduced in 1927 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1959.

Up until 2005, the Cheltenham Festival was contested over three days before being extended to a fourth to allow a championship race to headline each day of action.

cheltenham festival schedule

The opening day of the famous four-day meeting sees four Grade One races contested, starting with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over two-miles for novice hurdlers. The Supreme is renowned for being the loudest curtain-raiser to any racing festival in Europe. The ‘Cheltenham Roar’ as the runners set off for the week’s first contest is one of deafening noise. It is a great symbol of the passion that dominates the jump racing game and sets the bar for what is renowned for being four days of pulse-raising action.

Headlining Tuesday of the Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Hurdle over two-miles for hurdlers aged four and older. In recent years, legendary hurdlers such as See You Then, Dawn Run, Istabraq and Hurricane Fly have all graced the Cheltenham turf on route to securing the Champion Hurdle, making it one of the festival’s most prestigious races. 

Day two showcases the leading two-mile chase division as the Grade One Champion Chase takes to centre-stage. The race has been home to some of the most memorable moments in jump racing history, most notably in 2016 when Sprinter Sacre produced a spine-tingling performance to regain his Champions chase crown. Wednesday at Cheltenham also sees the Grade One Champion Bumper raced for the young horses of the future. Recent victors have featured Cue Card and Champagne Fever who progressed on to enjoy great success over larger obstacles.

The third day of the Cheltenham Festival is allocated to the staying hurdlers and the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle. A Grade One over three-miles for horses aged four and older as the division’s leading contenders from across Britain and Ireland do battle for supremacy. A horse testament to such status is the Paul Nicholls-trained Big Bucks who won the World Hurdle on four occasions from 2009 and 2012, cementing his name amongst the greatest stayer hurdlers of all time.

Assisting the Stayers' Hurdle on a day of tremendous jump racing in the Grade One Ryanair Chase over 2m4f for horses suited more to the intermediate chase distance. Since its introduction in 2005, the Ryanair has seen a number of high-profile horses claims its prize, none more so than Vautour in 2016 who put together a sensational jumping performance to win the Grade One contest by a convincing six-lengths.

Despite the Cheltenham Festival offering three fantastic days of National Hunt action, the week is built up to a mouthwatering final fourth day on Friday where the blue riband Cheltenham Gold Cup is contested over 3m2f. The Grade One chase is widely-regarded as the greatest race of the jump racing campaign and one in which each trainer strives to one day win.

the cheltenham experience

It is history-making events such as this that makes the Cheltenham Festival an unparalleled experience for the horse racing fan. Tens of thousands of National Hunt enthusiasts from both sides of the Irish Sea descend upon Cheltenham each March to experience a piece of the festival’s notorious racing and social atmosphere. 

Cheltenham’s four-day festival stands as a significant period for the bookmaking industry and its members. According to a report in 2014, over £250 million was wagered at the festival as punters become gripped to the pulse-raising build-up that the four-day meeting endures. The introduction of ‘Cheltenham Preview Evenings’ in the 21st century have only added further fuel to the festival’s wild fire as fans gear up for the sport’s biggest week of the year.

The cocktail of British and Irish jump races fans, fiercely-competitive action and an unrivalled sporting atmosphere makes the Cheltenham Festival one of the best yearly events both on and off course.

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