Tag Archives: Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival Hurdle Horse Races 2021

Cheltenham racecourse in 2010. Carine06 from UK.

The Cheltenham Festival Jump Horse Racing Festival is from Tuesday 16 to Friday 19 March 2021, including Gold Cup Day. Cheltenham follows British government’s guidance to allow spectators when it is safe to attend. Until then, when you want a winner, we have the guide and schedule for your favourite horses.

Will there be people in attendance like there was last year when they just missed the Covid-19 quarantines? Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that restrictions would be lifted, if possible, in mid-February which could allow for crowds at Cheltenham.

Last year’s Cheltenham was one of the final major sporting events to go ahead as normal before the UK was sent into its first national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021 Cheltenham meet is scheduled to get under way on Tuesday, March 16 with The Champion Hurdle being the headline race on Day One.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase and The Stayers’ Hurdle will follow on the next two days, ending with the Gold Cup on Friday, March 19.

The way they run the Cheltenham Festival is by splitting it in two sections, running four days in total. Days one and two will be run on the Old Course, days three and four on the New Course.

The Old Course was used for the Champion Hurdle and Queen Mother Champion Chase. The New Course, which hosts the longer Stayers’ Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup, takes a toll on a horse’s stamina. The field can drastically change and morph as the horses gallop up the fabled Cheltenham hill.

There is also a cross-country course which is laid out inside the main racecourse and is used for cross-country steeplechases.

The first race is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle which starts the Cheltenham Festival and sees runners sent off with the famous “Cheltenham roar”. The Supreme has an impressive roll of honor, including the likes of Vautour and Douvan, but one of the most notable winners in recent years was Altior.

The Arkle Challenge is the second race and is offered for top two-mile horses. The Arkle has been won in the past by Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop, Sizing Europe, and Sprinter Sacre, to qualify to run r the Champion Chase. Willie Mullins has dominated the race in recent years, including victories for Un de Sceaux, Douvan, Footpad, and Duc des Genievres.

The third race is the Festival Handicap Chase which has seen one of the best rides in Cheltenham Festival history when Wichita Lineman was carried home by A. P. McCoy in 2009.

The National Hunt Chase is one of three races at the Cheltenham Festival restricted to amateur riders. It is the longest race of the meeting, run over three and three-quarter miles where Irish trainers have had plenty of success in recent times. Gordon Elliott has won two of the last three runnings, including with Ravenhill in 2020.

Then they have the Novices’ Handicap Chase first run in 2005. It often brings the most progressive novices together, and has a history of representing strong form.

The Cheltenham Festival is one of the “meetings” (British term for horse races, etc.) in the National Hunt racing calendar in the United Kingdom. Its race prize money is second only to the Grand National. It takes place annually in March at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. It usually coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day and is particularly popular with Irish visitors.

The meeting’s Grade I races include: the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, and Stayers’ Hurdle. Large amounts of money are gambled, hundreds of millions over the course of the week.

Cheltenham is known for its atmosphere, including the “Cheltenham roar”, referring to the enormous amount of noise that the crowd generates as the starter raises the tape for the first race of the festival. It was initially titled the Grand National Hunt Meeting and took place at several locations.

After additions and major improvements made at Cheltenham, including a new stand (the fourth one), miles of drain to prevent unsuitable racing ground, tar paving in the enclosures, and the paddock extended to 35 saddling boxes, proved enough to make the National Hunt Committee decide that the 1911 meeting was to return at Prestbury Park, Cheltenham where it remained to the present.

Champion Hurdle Challengers to Epatante Have Questions to Answer

The Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival remains the richest prize over the smaller obstacles in National Hunt horse racing, but there is a feeling in recent years that it is not so competitive as it once was. Epatante, who won the race in 2020, was one of the few in the division to have made real progress throughout last season and ran out a worthy winner.

Just as she was fancied for the Champion Hurdle by tipsters then, she will be again barring injury because her rivals all have question marks hanging over them. Epatante heads the betting at 7/2 as a result, and we will know more about what shape she is in for a defence of her crown following likely runs in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

While trainer Nicky Henderson sticks to that tried and tested path for preparing his horses for the Champion Hurdle, two of the leading Irish contenders have both suffered early season defeats. Abacadabras was denied by Epatante’s very game stable companion Shishkin in the Supreme at Cheltenham in March and was again just bested on his return in the WKD Hurdle by Aspire Tower.

However, Gordon Elliott’s charge made up for those defeats when just hanging on in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. In just prevailing there, Abacadabras was again weak at the finish but still somehow able to beat the promising Saint Roi, who like Epatante is owned by J. P. McManus.

Saint Roi is top Irish trainer Willie Mullins’ best Champion Hurdle chance, according to the betting, following a very taking success at Cheltenham in the County Hurdle during the Festival. Although winning a Grade 3 on his return to action, the young pretender went down fighting in the Morgiana.

It is easy to criticise jockeys when a horse doesn’t win, but Mark Walsh may not have given Saint Roi the best tactical ride at Punchestown, opting for the narrow inner path after jumping the last rather than taking a clear run down the outside. There is little between this horse and Abacadabras, then.

As for other British-trained Champion Hurdle contenders, Gary Moore’s Goshen is on a mission for compensation after unseating his rider when well clear at the final flight in the Triumph Hurdle. Four-year-olds can often struggle in their first campaign in open company, however.

Buveur D’Air is a two-time Champion Hurdle winner, but on the comeback trail for Henderson and McManus following a gruesome and career-threatening injury during the 2019-20 season. Those same connections will hope nothing so unfortunate befalls Epatante in the Fighting Fifth as part of a hurdle puncturing a hoof as happened to her stable companion last year.

Now another year older, Buveur D’Air may be vulnerable to younger horses with more scope for progress. It will be interesting to see how he gets on when making his return to action, and there will be lots of goodwill coming the way of this old favourite.

All the while, Epatante has done nothing wrong. She doesn’t have these questions against her name and there may still be even more to come en route to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, so watch this space.

Cheltenham’s Greatest Moments

The Cheltenham Festival is the most important meeting in the entire National Hunt calendar, and it has delivered countless exhilarating races during its 160-year history. However, a handful of key moments stand out as the greatest of all time.

A Hat-Trick for Best Mate

Prestbury Park was rocking when the legendary Best Mate clinched a third consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph in 2004. Henrietta Knight’s superstar battled to a narrow victory ahead of Commanche in 2002 and then finished 17 lengths clear of the chasing pack the following year. He went off as the 8/11 favourite in 2004, but he was nine years old by that point and some commentators wrote off his chances of success.

Best Mate looked in trouble with a few fences to go, but he hit the front approaching the final fence and then charged up the hill in front of his screaming fans. Sir Rembrandt and Harbour Pilot both gave chase and it led to a pulsating finish, but Best Mate held them off and completed his hat-trick. He joined Golden Miller, Cottage Rake, and Arkle in achieving the feat, but few thought it would be possible in the modern era. Best Mate made a mockery of such projections. “Just listen to them!” said Knight as the crowd roared. “I thought we were beat coming to the last, but he’s tough, too. He was brilliantly ridden.”

Norton’s Coin Stuns the World

The Gold Cup is the biggest race of the year and it serves as the main event on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival. All the leading lights from across the UK, Ireland, and further afield gather to compete for the ultimate glory, and it often boils down to a thrilling battle between some of the famous, short-priced superstars. In 1990, the legendary Desert Orchid was the biggest icon in the business. He had won the race the previous year, and he was the odds-on favourite to defend his crown, although some experts though Bonanza Bay and Toby Tobias could give him a run for his money.

To say Norton’s Coin flew under the radar in the build-up to the race would be an understatement. He was in dreadful form, and owner Sirrell described him as an “ugly, plain chestnut”. He only took part in the Gold Cup due to a mix-up. Griffiths wanted him to run in the Carthcart instead, only to realise he was ineligible. His owner reluctantly sent him into battle and prayed he would finish in the top six so he could recoup the £1,000 entry fee, but most viewers thought he was simply making up the numbers.

He went off as the 100/1 underdog, and he was expected to flop. Yet Norton’s Coin left his poor form in the rear-view mirror. He was sitting comfortably in fourth at the third last, behind Desert Orchid, Ten of Spades, and Toby. He drew gasps as he soared past Desert Orchid at the penultimate fence. Ten of Spades fell, leaving Norton’s Coin locked in a thrilling battle with Toby Tobias. He pulled up alongside the frontrunner at the final fence and then won the prolonged struggle to finish three-quarters of a length clear of his rival, with the fastest winning time in 47 years.

Paisley Park Lands Stayers’ Hurdle

There was barely a dry eye in the house when the unlikely duo of Paisley Park and owner Andrew Gemmell earned a fairy-tale success in the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2019. Gemmell was born blind, but he spent many years listening to horseraces on the radio and developed a love of National Hunt racing. He then began building up his own stable of runners. His success was modest and he never expected to secure a winner at Cheltenham, but Paisley Park began to gather strong momentum throughout 2019.

He ended up going off as the heavily backed 11/8 favourite to win the Stayers’ Hurdle and the scenes were incredible as he outpaced his rivals to win the race. “I can’t believe it’s happened,” said an emotional Gemmell after the race. “It’s fantastic. I’m in tears. Wow. I couldn’t see the race, but that roar is incredible.”

Kauto Star Regains the Gold Cup

Kauto Star cemented his status as a titan of the National Hunt scene when he surged to victory in the 2007 Gold Cup. He was the 10/11 favourite to defend his crown the following year, but he ended up finishing second, seven lengths behind talented stablemate Denman. The excitement was palpable when the duo lined up alongside one another for the 2009 renewal of jumps racing’s blue riband event.

Many expected a ferociously tight battle, but in the end Kauto Star produced one of the greatest performances ever seen. He finished an astonishing 13 lengths clear of Denman and became the first horse to ever regain the Gold Cup. Trainer Paul Nicholls almost secured a 1-2-3, but Tony McCoy on Exotic Dancer finished third instead. Yet there were no complaints from the Ditcheat maestro. “What an unbelievable horse Kauto Star is,” he said.

Nicky Henderson’s Wonderful Wednesday

Henderson has always loomed large over the Cheltenham Festival, but his finest moment came in 2012. Sprinting Sacre helped him get off to a flying start when he won the Arkle at 8/11 on the Tuesday. Then Henderson saddled an astonishing four winners on the Wednesday: Simonsig (2/1), Bobs Worth (9/2), Finian’s Rainbow (4/1), and Riverside Theatre (7/2). A stable lad at his operation placed a five-fold accumulator on all of them and won £1 million.

During the course of the festival, Henderson secured seven winners. That saw him overtake Fukle Walwyn as the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history, with 46 wins, and it was all thanks to that wonderful Wednesday. A young whippersnapper by the name of Willie Mullins has since overtaken Henderson by securing 65 Cheltenham wins, but Henderson is now just one back on 64. The Cheltenham odds, which you can check out here, show that both men have a number of heavily fancied runners in 2020, so it will be exciting to see who holds the record when all is said and done.

What Is the Biggest National Hunt Meet in the UK?

With the upcoming Cheltenham Festival in March, and the Grand National in April, there’s so much for racing fans to be excited. Various punters and bookies are already making their Cheltenham tips as well as those for the Grand National. Of course, you can always expect those big shock wins — but jockeys, trainers, fans, and horses are all getting prepared for what who they think will place well this season. It’s a fantastic time of year for everyone involved with a rich historical legacy.

Both the Cheltenham Festival and the National Hunt are the most impressive, and largest, national hunt meetings in the UK. But which one is the biggest? And what audiences do they appeal to?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What they’re all about

There are, of course, some stark differences between the two events. The Cheltenham Festival, which takes place across four days at Prestbury Park, involves 28 different races. The Cheltenham Festival has its top race — the highlight being the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a steeplechase covering 3 miles 2 ½ furlongs and 22 fences. But the other races, including the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Coral Cup, and Stayers’ Hurdle, all have their prestigious elements too.

The Grand National at Aintree is one big race — at the end of a three-day mini-festival on Merseyside. Watched by over 600 million people in 140 countries, the Grand National is run over 4 miles 3 ½ furlongs with 30 fences. It’s a thrilling extravaganza with an intimidating 30 fences for both horse and jockey to get through.

Both the Grand National and the Cheltenham Festival have hosted an exhaustive history of riders and runners, as well as some historic races that have captivated fans from all around the world.

The one for the racing experts

The main event of the Grand National, the only Grade 3 race during the festival, is definitely the highlight. It does have eleven Grade 1 races throughout the course of the event, but they’re definitely not the first that come to mind when you think of the Grand National. The Cheltenham Festival on the other hand, has six Grade 3 races, fourteen Grade 1 races, and two Grade 2 races — meaning racing enthusiasts get to experience top tier race after top tier race, throughout the course of the four days.

It’s not just the racing enthusiasts that prefer Cheltenham. Many jockeys consider winning the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival a more prestigious opportunity than the Grand National. Former Irish race horsing jockey Tony McCoy confirmed this in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, saying: “It is the public who prefer the Grand National and that’s what makes it so big every year.” He described the Gold Cup as the pinnacle of the sport. Of course, it’s all a matter of opinion, but safe to say that racing experts definitely lean towards Cheltenham Festival when it comes to the two famous national hunt meets.

What the punters prefer

McCoy probably got it right when he described how much the public love the Grand National. It’s been held in high regard by punters since the days of Red Rum — the famous horse who brought public interest back to the Grand National in the 1970s. It’s one of the most bet on events in the country, and the most wagered on horse race in the UK — with many people who wouldn’t otherwise bet on a horse race taking their chances at the Grand National. Either way, both the Grand National and Cheltenham Festival have been massively popular events and continue to be exciting for everyone involved.

Cheltenham Festival 2020 National Hunt Racing

The 2020 Cheltenham Festival gets under way on March 10, 2020. Here is all the information you need ahead of the four-day spectacular.  The race prize money is second only to the Grand National and you also have several Grade I races, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, and Stayers’ Hurdle, held over four days. The meeting usually coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day, and is particularly popular with Irish visitors.

Large amounts of money are gambled during Cheltenham Festival week, with hundreds of millions of pounds being bet over the week.  To assist you, go to the best Cheltenham festival betting offers for 2020.

Punters should know that when picking a Cheltenham Festival winner, there are several races which serve as key indicators for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, including the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the King George VI Chase at Kempton, and the Denman Chase at Newbury, to name just a few. Results in these races act as a good base to predict the outcome for those looking to bet on the Cheltenham races themselves. Horses who tend to perform well in these races go on to perform well in the Gold Cup, so be sure you study the form book.

Owners have been known to purchase horses with the specific aim of achieving a winner at the festival.  Cheltenham Gold Cup finish has an exhausting climb to the line.  Some horses are suited to the course better than others.

The festival also includes one of the two biggest Hunter Chases of the season, the Foxhunters’, which is run on the Friday over the same course as the Gold Cup.

The course based in the outskirts of Cheltenham in the village of Prestbury is the home of national hunt racing and has three left hand tracks, the Old Course, the New Course, and the Cross Country Steeplechase course.

The beauty of National Hunt racing is that the stars of the show have longer careers than those who run on the Flat, meaning that they return to the festival over several seasons, and build a real rapport with those who follow the sport.

The number and type of races at the Cheltenham Festival has changed dramatically over the years of its existence. In particular, it has grown from a two-day meeting to a four-day meeting. In 2019, there were 28 races.

The top jockey for the festival is the jockey who wins the most races over the four days, and the leading trainer for the festival is the trainer who trains the most winners in the races over the four days.

Each of the four days of the Cheltenham Festival is headlined by either one or two Championship races, which consist of the Champion Hurdle (Tuesday), the Queen Mother Champion Chase (Wednesday), and the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase (Thursday), before culminating in the headline race of the entire week, Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, which saw Willie Mullins break his 6 runners-up with a win by 2 ½ lengths.

Tuesday, the Champion Day, is the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival and is packed with top quality horses and starts with a bang with the best young hurdlers.

Wednesday, Ladies’ Day, is headlined by the Queen Mother Champion Chase, consisting of a fine blend of speed and stamina for a two mile run. The Cross Country Chase gets better by the year, with dual hero Tiger Roll famously going on to claim Grand National glory at Aintree on both occasions.

The St Patrick’s Thursday crowd has every reason to celebrate with a couple of strong Grade One contests in the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase. Then you’ll have the Marsh Novices’ Chase (formerly the JLT) while the Pertemps Network Final provides a huge field scrap for hurdling over three miles.

On Friday, one of the most sought-after titles in racing is decided on the final day of the Festival. The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup is a race associated with the elite of the sport and nothing can rival the Cheltenham roar as the horses charge up the famous hill.  The JCB Triumph Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle also produce top-class talent. The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle is the 28th and final race of the Festival.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Puzzle Looks Tough to Solve

The Cheltenham Festival is the centerpiece of national hunt racing in the UK and Ireland. The biggest race of the entire week is without a doubt the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a race that racing fans and punter savior. This Cheltenham horse race attracts excitement and attention, and the 2020 renewal is no different.

The standout feature of the Cheltenham Gold Cup so far is how wide open it looks. By now in most years we have had a strong favorite who has shown ability far superior to those in opposition. However, with holes to pick in most form lines, and horses impressing before disappointing or the other way around, this could be the most open Gold Cup we have seen for years.

That will please punters betting on the race, who will be able to get good value on the selections they fancy. Those with free Cheltenham bets will be able to spend them on this race and get a big price, rather than backing an odds-on favorite like we will have in some other races at the meeting.

Free bets are a great way for punters to bet at the Cheltenham Festival and there will be many betting sites on offer for the upcoming horse racing. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the pinnacle of the national hunt calendar, and a huge betting heat that everyone wants to be involved with.

Who Are the Main Cheltenham Gold Cup Contenders?

You will find many household names in this Cheltenham horse race, with plenty of fan-favorites taking to the track. With many horses coming back year after year to run in this race again, they quickly become adored by the public and this is one of the main reasons why the love for this race is so strong.

Ireland Holds Strong Hand to Win Another Gold Cup

Willie Mullins, who trains in Ireland, holds a strong hand here, with both the winner from last season and one of the most talked about horses from last season both expected to line up. Al Boum Photo won the race last season and he is set to defend his crown after returning with an impressive win at Tramore over the Christmas period.

While his victory in the race last season was a surprise to some, he was foot perfect on the day, relished the stiff finish of the Cheltenham course and demands plenty of respect going back there as the champion.

His stablemate Kemboy also ran in the Gold Cup of 2019, but unseated his rider early in the race which prevented him from getting involved. The rest of his form is top class though, and includes a win against Al Boum Photo after the Cheltenham Gold Cup last year as well as a win at Aintree where he beat King George dual winner Clan Des Obeaux.

He has only been seen once this season and was disappointing when only managing to finish fourth at Leopardstown but he is clearly a high quality horse on his day who could take a lot of beating.

Nicholls and Tizzard Lead British Challenge

We have just mentioned Clan Des Obeaux, and he is another in with a chance this season. The Paul Nicholls trained runner will have landed many winning free bets for punters when landing his two King George titles, but can he win a Gold Cup? He struggled to get home over the distance of 3m2f last year and seems to need a flat three miles to be seen at his very best which is a worry for him.

There is no doubt that this horse is full of class, and if terms of ability he could well be the best horse in the race. However, the test of a Cheltenham Gold Cup over 3m2f and on a stiff track is not what he needs, and for that reason there will be many who think he simply cannot win the big one, no matter how good he is over shorter.

The youngster emerging as a star horse is definitely Lostintranslation, though he has to bounce back from a disappointing run in the King George. He was excellent as a novice last season and backed that up with a win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November to show he is the real deal.

However, he was pulled up when running poorly in the King George, and that does leave a question mark over his name. He is the ideal Gold Cup horse, which is a big positive, and unlike Clan Des Obeaux, he needs the stamina test of a Gold Cup to be seen at his best.

He will head straight to the race without a prep run, but if you can forgive him his run in the King George, he is the one horse in this field who could go on to win multiple Gold Cups as he is still only a youngster.

Those with free Cheltenham bets to spend will have their favorite from the field of runners, but so far, the general feeling is that this race is wide open.

Cheltenham 2019: Three to Watch as We Approach the Festival

It’s now fewer than three weeks until the 2019 Cheltenham Festival (12th-15th March). For some of Britain and Ireland’s top trainers, the date can’t come quickly enough. For others, one would think, an extra few weeks of preparation would be most welcome. The equine flu outbreak hasn’t really hampered preparations in the way it was first feared, but other more familiar issues, like form and injury, have blighted some trainers.

In light of that, we take a look at some horses who will be worth keeping an eye on at the Festival, including those who might need to dig very deep to tackle a challenge of a lifetime.

Min

Let’s give this a little bit of context: If everything went to plan, Altior, the 2018 Champion Chase winner and seemingly unbeatable superstar, would be lining up against Footpad, the young pretender and 2018 Arkle Chase winner. That still may be the case, but Footpad has not yet found the form we all hoped he would this season. It now seems like Min, who has finished runner-up to Altior twice before at Cheltenham, will have another crack at the champion. Will it be third time lucky? The form book says no: Altior is odds-on at 4/11 with Bet365, whereas Min can be found at 8/1 with Betfair. However, Min is a gutsy, wonderful horse in his own right, who has it in him to pull one out of the bag when it matters. Consensus says no, but consensus is often wrong in horse racing.

Clan Des Obeaux

The Gold Cup is really open this year, so check out Cheltenham betting offers, such as free bets and matched offers, before you part with any money, because there are at least 10 candidates with really reasonable claims on Cheltenham’s most prestigious prize. However, one horse who seems to have juggernaut-like momentum is Clan Des Obeaux. Before Christmas, he wasn’t even being talked about as any sort of contender. Yet his win in the King George VI Chase, coupled with a brilliant run at Ascot last week, has pushed his star higher and higher. Clan Des Obeaux has odds of 9/2 from Sportingbet for the Gold Cup, just trailing Presenting Percy who is on 11/4. There is a real sense that those positions will be reversed by race day.

Laurina

How many times have we seen the focus go on the wrong horses down the years in racing? Everyone is talking about the potential scrap for the Champion Hurdle between Buveur D’Air and Apple’s Jade. The pair is locked as co-favourites at 2/1 with Betfair, although the majority of sportsbooks prefer the older gelding and two-time winner, Buveur D’Air. In truth, it’s a thrilling match-up, with Buveur’s experience being offset by the weight allowance given to mares like Apple’s Jade.

However, Laurina, a younger mare, is sitting stubbornly behind them in the betting markets, best-priced at 9/2. The thing is, most thought the conventional wisdom would be to send Laurina to the Mares’ Hurdle, then perhaps have a crack at this next year, when she is older and more experienced. Willie Mullins thinks otherwise, and as a man who has won this race with a mare before, you would be inclined to have faith in him. Anyone who has doubted the most successful trainer at the Festival in the past has looked foolish, so take note.

Cheltenham Festival: New Rules Will Restrict Horses to Just a Single Appearance in 2019

Photo source: Racing Post via Twitter.

The BHA have made a number of small tweaks ahead of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival with horses now being limited to just one appearance at Prestbury Park. It is a decision which has not been unanimously welcomed by trainers, but it does appear to be a sensible move from the authorities. It is rare to see a competitor doubling up during the four-day festival; however, this new governance is designed to provide greater clarity for horse-racing punters.

Announced at the beginning of February, the new ruling is one of a number of alterations which have been introduced ahead of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. A small reshuffle in the race order will see the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap bring the curtain down on another four days of high-octane action in Gloucestershire, with the Grand Annual now taking place on the Thursday. The National Hunt Chase and the Close Brothers Novice’s Handicap Chase will also swap places on Tuesday’s card. The second-last fence on the old course will also be moved in order to give competitors a greater run-up to the obstacle.

However, it is the declaration change which has caused the biggest stir amongst the training fraternity and this new rule appears to have thoroughly divided opinion. Many handlers believed that Cheltenham did not need to act and that they should be solely responsible for their horses’ welfare. Trainers will now be prohibited from entering their horse into multiple events, with many of the top yards having the tendency to declare their stable stars for two or three different races. This had allowed them to make a decision on the day itself; however, it also resulted in several non-runners throughout the festival.

Many National Hunt stars are hardy competitors and the possibility of a quick turnaround is perfectly plausible, but the new ruling will no longer allow this to happen. In 2004, Our Armageddon pulled up in the Arkle, but made his re-appearance just days later in the Cathcart Chase and easily saw off the threat of Iris Rose to land the spoils for trainer Richard Guest.

Source: Racing Post via Twitter

Several horses were declared for multiple races in 2018, with Richard Hobson’s Shantou Flyer running in the Ultima Handicap on the opening day before subsequently entering the reckoning for Friday’s Gold Cup. The nine-year old was eventually aimed at the Randox Health Grand National instead, but connections believed that he would have more than held his own in the hugely competitive final-day contest. Hobson’s charge is in the betting for this year’s Foxhunters Chase and is currently priced at 14/1. This race will be held on the new course and is one of many contests which will be comprehensively analysed by betting.betfair’s Cheltenham tips ahead of this year’s extravaganza, which gets underway on March 12th.

With savvy punters finalising their ante-post bets months in advance, this new rule should help avoid confusion and the markets are likely to look far less congested as a result. Trainers may be disgruntled by these latest alterations, but it does appear to be a step in the right direction will undoubtedly make things much simpler for punters.

The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is set to be another fantastic spectacle and the four-day exhibition will once again showcase the classiest hurdlers and the most powerful chasers. The new rule change may have divided trainers, but it definitely won’t detract from yet another sensational showdown in Gloucestershire.

Next Staying Star? 3 Candidates for National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham Festival

Nicky Henderson has the National Hunt Chase ante post favourite in his stable this season” (CC BY 2.0) by danheap77.

While the RSA Chase has considerable claims for being the classiest race for up-and-coming stayers over fences, its supremacy at the Cheltenham Festival has come under threat in recent years.

This is because horses that have won or placed in the National Hunt Chase – also for novices – during the last three years went on to land some of the most valuable stayers’ races in 2018.

What’s the difference between the two Festival events? The RSA is over three miles and holds Grade 1 status, but the National Hunt Chase is a four-mile Grade 2 contest for amateur riders only.

Despite that, the likes of Native River (Cheltenham Gold Cup), Sizing Tennessee (Ladbokes Trophy), and Tiger Roll (Grand National) have all run well in the inferior race, but then gone on to even greater things.

Who could be the next staying star of jumps racing? Here are three candidates for the 2019 National Hunt Chase.

OK Corral

One of the few races reigning British champion trainer Nicky Henderson hasn’t won is this one. In OK Corral, he has a hugely talented Mahler gelding who is lightly-raced for a nine-year-old and unbeaten in two starts over fences.

As OK Corral represents leading Irish owner J. P. McManus, who since 1995 has had more winners of the National Hunt Chase than anybody, he’s a serious prospect. Crack amateur jockey Derek O’Connor partnered the horse to his second chase victory over the stiff fences of Warwick at Listed level – strongly suggesting this race is the plan.

Bookmakers were quick to make OK Corral ante post favourite off the back of that victory, and he is now 100/30 with Betfair in the latest Cheltenham betting. If getting the trip, and he has a stamina laden pedigree being out of a Flemensfirth mare, then the Henderson hoodoo in the National Hunt Chase could well end.

Ballyward

Willie Mullins holds the rare feat of riding and training two winners of this race. The Closutton master handler saddled Rathvinden to the spoils 12 months ago and impressive Naas Grade 3 winner Ballyward is the sole representative from his yard in the early closing entries.

Mullins’ son Patrick is one of the top amateur riders in Ireland and Emerald Isle raiders have won four of the last eight renewals of the National Hunt Chase. Ballyward was sired by Flemensfirth and placed fourth in both staying novice hurdles at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals last season.

Connections didn’t mess about over the smaller obstacles, giving the seven-year-old just four starts, but he’s taken his form to a new level now sent chasing. While Ballyward may seem young to be taking on a four-mile marathon, he fits the age profile of most winners since 2005; so, at a general 6/1 with bookies, he is respected for an Irish stable that targets the Cheltenham Festival.

Impulsive Star

As the National Hunt Chase is over an extreme distance, there are very few obvious trials for it. One horse who has acquitted himself admirably in a real stamina test is last year’s fourth Impulsive Star, who retained novice status for this season.

Although the Neil Mulholland trained nine-year-old was beaten 24 lengths by Rathvinden and also finished behind gutsy mare Ms Parfois and Sizing Tennessee 12 months ago, and has something to find on Plumpton form with OK Corral, he took a big step forward last time out. Impulsive Star is now rated a 7lb better horse because he’s won a race over fences in the Grade 3 Classic Chase over 3m 5f at Warwick.

Given his victory in a competitive staying handicap like that under the owner’s son and former Cheltenham Gold Cup winning rider Sam Waley-Cohen, an each-way punt looks great value at 14/1 with William Hill and others.

Will Paisley Park Prove to Be the Real Deal?

The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner and the trainers and jockeys are busy preparing their horses for what could be the biggest race of their season. For Paisley Park and everyone involved with him, there is a real feeling that he could be the next big horse.

With four wins from four races this season, he is already proving that he has what it takes to go all the way in the sport. Although Paisley Park isn’t running in the main event at the festival, the Gold Cup, he is the current favourite to win the Stayers’ Hurdle on St Patrick’s Thursday, according to Paddy Power.

His trainer Emma Lavelle is confident of victory in the race at Cheltenham and is fearful of just one horse. She said, “How could he not be made favourite?

“I don’t think there is anyone this side of the water who wasn’t in the Cleeve on Saturday, and with last year’s winner Penhill not having run this season he would have to come over in tip-top shape. Then Paisley Park would have a fight on his hands.”

It’s hard to blame her for being so confident given Paisley Park’s incredible start to the season. His first race this season, the Racing UK Handicap Hurdle at Aintree, saw him set off as the joint favourite with Lygon Rock and Byron Flyer. In the final 100 yards of the race he pulled away from Lygon Rock and won the race by 2 ½ lengths.

Race two of the season for the Irish thoroughbred was the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock. In the Grade 3 race he was the third favourite behind the favourite First Assignment and second favourite Captain Cattistock. He finished the race strong, defeating 20/1 longshot Shades of Midnight by just ½ a length.

In the Grade 1 JLT Hurdle at Ascot, he had pre-race odds of 8/1, making him the fifth favourite to win the race. Despite starting slowly, Paisley Park steadily gained ground on the leaders and after the last, he drove ahead and maintained pace to finish two lengths clear of second place West Approach.

For the first time this season Paisley Park ran as the favourite. The Grade 2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle saw the 100/30 favourite obliterate the rest of the field, taking the lead before the last. Finished impressively and finished ahead of West Approach for the second time in a row, but this time finished an incredible 12 lengths clear.

He is currently the 9/4 favourite to win the Stayers’ Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, ahead of Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy. Last year’s winner Penhill is the fourth favourite at 5/1, but having not run so far this season, it is likely to take a monumental effort to defeat the in-form Paisley Park. Jockey Aidan Coleman has ridden him to four victories in four races and if he were to go on to win the Stayers’ Hurdle, then perhaps people will start to see the potential in this horse.