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The jumps racing season in Britain and Ireland has many highlights. Racing fans, trainers, jockeys and owners all look forward to different races and meetings for their own reasons but, as Gordon Elliott recently put it, you’re kidding yourself if you pretend that the Cheltenham Festival isn’t the “be-all and end-all”.
This is what the whole season has been building up to. The best National Hunt horses in the world will join over 250,000 spectators at this four-day festival of jumps racing and we cannot wait.
Amongst all the high-quality action, it’s the feature races of the day that take most of the billing so we’ve gone through these top-level races to pick out our best Cheltenham Festival bets.
Constitution Hill 4/11 (bet365)
State Man 10/3 (Betfred)
Vauban 14/1 (Ladbrokes)
I Like To Move It 18/1 (Coral)
Zanahiyr 100/1 (Sportingbet)
One of the long-running traditions at the Cheltenham Festival is the Prestbury Cup. This battle between Britain and Ireland has been dominated by the latter over the last three years and it’s not looking good for the home team in 2023.
Britain should put one on the board in the Champion Hurdle though with the astonishingly good Constitution Hill a clear favourite for the Nicky Henderson team.
State Man provides the main opposition and although he is a horse to be seriously respected, Constitution Hill has what it takes to be the next National Hunt superstar.
Victory would be particularly special for Henderson as he trains Constitution Hill for his good friend Michael Buckley. It would be a major shock were those two not embracing in the winner’s circle around 3:45pm on Tuesday.
Edwarstone 6/4 (bet365)
Energumene 6/4 (bet365)
Editeur Du Gite 9/2 (bet365)
Nube Negra 18/1 (Coral)
Greaneteen 20/1 (Ladbrokes)
Unlike the Champion Hurdle, the feature race of day two of the Cheltenham Festival is a seriously competitive affair on paper.
It would have been even more competitive had Gentleman De Mee stood his ground but Willie Mullins will be represented only by Energumene in the Champion Chase. Mullins himself has said that he prefers to have multiple options for this race and he had Chacun Pour Soi in the race when Energumene won last year.
In a race that is likely to be settled by fine margins, Mullins having a less-than-ideal plan could be what tilts things towards Edwardstone.
Alan King’s charge has Cheltenham experience and will get the soft ground he loves on Wednesday. The nine-year-old will need the performance of his career but he is well-placed to produce that and win.
Shishkin 8/11 (Coral)
Conflated 5/1 (Sportingbet)
Blue Lord 5/1 (bet365)
Janidil 13/2 (Ladbrokes)
Fury Road 7/1 (Betfred)
Thursday at Cheltenham is unique in that it has two feature races. The Ryanair Chase is the first of the two and we have a potentially wonderful storyline with Shishkin looking to complete a fairytale comeback.
Nicky Henderson always thought that people were too quick to write off Shishkin after his high-profile flop in last year’s Champion Chase so the trainer was feeling very happy with himself and his horse when the nine-year-old roared back to form at Ascot last month.
That Ascot Chase success also proved Henderson was right to step Shishkin up over two miles and the 8/11 favourite will be difficult to stop. It’s just that price that will put punters off.
Rather than backing an odds-on shot who still has something to prove, consider taking the 7/1 available about Fury Road’s chances. The Gordon Elliott inmate has himself had something of a comeback and although he is yet to win this season, his performances have certainly improved.
The rain in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday would be a boost to Fury Road who can use his stamina reserves to reward each-way backers.
Blazing Khal 5/2 (Ladbrokes)
Teahupoo 4/1 (Coral)
Flooring Porter 5/1 (Betfred)
Home By The Lee 11/2 (Sportingbet)
Klassical Dream 10/1 (Ladbrokes)
Gold Tweet 10/1 (bet365)
Paisley Park 14/1 (Coral)
If Fury Road does the business in the Ryanair Chase then Gordon Elliott could be on for a remarkable as Teahupoo is getting plenty of support in the betting for the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Blazing Khal remains the bookies’ favourite but his build-up to Cheltenham has been marred by injury and it’s Teahupoo who looks best placed to take advantage.
The classy Klassical Dream cannot be discounted for Willie Mullins nor can the two-time defending Stayers’ Hurdle champion, Flooring Porter who is certainly appealing at 5/1.
However, it’s another former winner of this race who looks most appealing at the odds with Paisley Park available at 14/1 with Coral. The 11-year-old will probably find one or two too good for him on the day but he remains an incredibly consistent performer and will be right up there in the heat of the action come the closing straight so an each-way play on Paisley Park should yield a return.
Galopin Des Champs 7/4 (Sportingbet)
Bravemansgame 6/1 (bet365)
A Plus Tard 13/1 (Coral)
Noble Yeats 8/1 (Ladbrokes)
Stattler 9/1 (Coral)
Conflated 12/1 (Ladbrokes)
Protektorat 14/1 (bet365)
Ahoy Senor 16/1 (bet365)
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious jumps race of all. It never fails to provide a thrilling contest and a great story and there is no shortage of great stories in this year’s renewal.
Willie Mullins admitted he had given up hope of winning the Gold Cup before he trained Al Boum Photo to wins in 2019 and 2020 and the legendary Irish trainer is right to be confident about the chances of bookies’ favourite Galopin Des Champs.
Paul Nicholls is targeting a record-equalling fifth Gold Cup success with Bravemansgame. Bravemansgame has already mimicked former Nicholls’ hero Kauto Star by winning the King George at Kempton and has a real chance of doing likewise in the Gold Cup.
Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore were on top of the world when they combined to win last year’s renewal with A Plus Tard. It’s been an awful 12 months since for De Bromhead but this trainer/jockey partnership is stronger than ever and they could well be celebrating again at Cheltenham.
Then there’s Noble Yeats who is bidding for a remarkable Grand National/Gold Cup double and Ahoy Senor, the best horse that Lucinda Russell has ever trained. Either would prove to be a hugely popular winner.
No successful punter can let their heart rule their head though. There is no doubt that Galopin Des Champs is the most likely winner of this year’s Gold Cup. While some weren’t impressed with his win in the Irish Gold Cup, he ground the win out and it’s that ability to dig deep that so often proves decisive when climbing the famed Cheltenham hill.
Constitution Hill to win the Champion Hurdle at 4/11 with bet365
Edwardstone to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at 6/4 with bet365
Fury Road each-way in the Ryanair Chase at 7/1 with Betfred
Paisley Park each-way in the Stayers’ Hurdle at 14/1 with Coral
Galopin Des Champs to win the Gold Cup at 7/4 with Sportingbet