Monday 16 December 2019

Cheltenham Festival Tips: What are the Best Ante-Post Bets?

The 2019/20 National Hunt season is well underway and several exciting contenders have already emerged for the biggest prizes at the Cheltenham Festival in March. The Gold Cup, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle are all up for grabs at the most important and prestigious meeting of the year. All roads now point to Cheltenham and these are the top ante-post selections:

Lostintranslation for the Gold Cup

Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old superstar has displayed superb form this season and he has stormed to the top of the ante post betting for the biggest race of the year.

Lostintranslation was second to Defi Du Seuil at the JLT Novices’ Chase in March, and he has been on an upward curve ever since. He blitzed a strong field to win the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April, and he was impressive in winning a Listed chase on his seasonal reappearance.

That saw Lostintranslation installed as joint favourite along with defending champion Bristol De Mai at the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. It was difficult to separate as they went over the last, but Lostintranslation found another gear on the home straight and earned a one-and-a-half length victory. Everything now points to a Gold Cup trip, but first he must tackle the second leg of the Triple Crown of Jumps Racing: the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. He is the second favourite, after only the impressive Cyrname, but he looks dangerous in that field and he should be a serious Gold Cup contender.

He has only lost to Defi Du Seuil in his last seven, but he beat that horse twice previously, and Tizzard is feeling confident. “Lostintranslation has come out of Haydock beautifully, he is a big strong horse in the peak of his powers at the moment and I couldn’t be happier with him,” said the trainer. “He has got everything going for him, he is a beautiful young horse. He has now moved into Cue Card’s box which tells a story of where we think he is. He has still got to do it, he still hasn't won a king George and he still has not won a Gold Cup. It is still all in front of him.”

Altior for the Champion Chase

Altior could aim for a third straight victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March. Nicky Henderson’s magnificent chaser became the punters’ darling by storming to victory in 2018 and easily defending his crown earlier this year. Victory at the Grade 1 Celebration Chase in April extended his long unbeaten record over fences, and suggested that his invincibility would continue.

Yet Henderson then took the bold decision of stepping Altior up in trip and heading down the King George route. That meant a visit to Ascot to contest the Christy Chase over 2m 5f 8y last month, where he came up against a bang in form Cyrname. That is the distance Cyrname specialises in, and it showed. He did not let Altior assume his usual position at the front of the field, and he then ran on well to secure a strong victory, with the 1/3 favourite more than two lengths back.

The result leaves Henderson at a crossroads with Altior. He could continue down this path and hope that Altior begins to build up his stamina, adapt to the longer trip and seize major honours. Alternatively, he could return to the distance that Altior was so successful over and see if he still has the pace to dominate his rivals. He has already said “bring on round two” against Cyrname, but if he struggles at Kempton on Boxing Day – where Cyrname, Lostintranslation and 2018 winner Clan Des Obeaux are all ahead of him in the betting – then Henderson could change tack. Altior was a huge, odds-on favourite for the Champion Chase in 2019, but he is now as long as 7/2 for the 2020 renewal, which could provide plenty of value for punters.

Cyrname for the Ryanair Chase

Paul Nicholls’ Cyrname has been in devastating form throughout 2019. The seven-year-old moved ahead of Altior in the official rankings with a stunning triumph in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase in February and that announced him as a serious contender for glory this season. Punters were giddy with excitement about the prospect of him locking horns with Altior – it was likened to the epic duels between Kauto Star and Denman – but Cyrname was far stronger in the Christy Chase. It will be fascinating to see how he gets on away from Ascot, but his potential looks huge.

It will also be interesting to see where he fits in at the Cheltenham Festival. He has been cut from 33/1 to just 12/1 with some bookmakers for the Gold Cup, but the Ryanair Chase seems like a far more suitable contest for Cyrname. Defi Du Seuil is the favourite in the Cheltenham Ante Post odds, with Min and Chacun Pour Soi and even Douvan in the mix, but Cyrname might be an interesting option at 10/1.

Paisley Park for the Stayers’ Hurdle

The legendary Paisley Park extended his winning streak to six races when he triumphed in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle over 3m 52y at Newbury in November. His victory in the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle was the stuff of fairy-tales. The hurdler nearly died two years previously from a serious illness, but he went on to give trainer Emma Lavelle and jockey Aidan Coleman their first top-level Grade One wins after years of trying.

What really captured the public’s imagination was the excitement, determination and wry humour of owner Andrew Gemmell, who was born blind. He could not watch the race, but he was clearly exhilarated as he absorbed the action, and the victory brought tears to the eyes of many viewers. Paisley Park continues to improve and he will surely be back for another crack at the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2020. It will be difficult for anyone to stop him triumphing again.

Tiger Roll for the Cross Country Chase

Another returning hero will be Tiger Roll, who is bidding for a third consecutive Cross Country Chase win. He is probably the most famous horse in Britain right now, having won back-to-back Grand Nationals and moved alongside Red Rum in the pantheon of all-time greats. Owner Michael O’Leary famous described him as “a little rat of a thing”, but Tiger Roll has the heart of a lion and the stamina of an antelope.

The big story in 2020 will be his attempt to secure an unprecedented third straight victory, but first he is highly likely to head to Cheltenham for another Cross Country challenge.

He jumps really well, his stamina is superb and he never seems flustered, so another win for the little legend certainly looks on the cards. “He will go back to Cheltenham for the Cross Country race and then we'll go for the Randox Health Grand National,” said trainer Gordon Elliott, much to the delight of jumps racing fans. He is the favourite for the Cross Country and he should be able to pull off another famous victory.

Saturday 7 December 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2015

The 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Betfred, featured 16 runners and had the distinction of being the first to be won by a novice since Captain Christy in 1974. The novice in question, on this occasion, was Coneygree, an 8-year-old gelding bred by the late John Oaksey and trained by his son-in-law Mark Bradstock at Lettcombe Bassett, near Wantage, Oxfordshire.

Prior to running in the Gold Cup, Coneygree had returned from a 671-day break to win all three starts over fences, including the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, making all and jumping well on each occasion. Toying with the idea of running Coneygree in the “Blue Riband” event, Bradstock said, “Touching wood, he is a very good jumper. He’s only had three runs [in steeplechases], but looks like he knows what he's doing, and he's not won over fences here [at Cheltenham] but has won twice over hurdles.”

Silviniaco Conti, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, was sent off 3/1 favourite to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the third time of asking. Nicholls’ charge had fallen at the third last when travelling well in 2013 and finished fourth, beaten 1¾ lengths, behind Lord Windermere in 2014, having only been headed in the final hundred yards or so. The Dom Alco gelding had 7lb and upwards in hand of his rivals on official figures, but otherwise the Gold Cup had a distinctly open look to it. Coneygree and Many Clouds were sent off joint second favourites at 7/1, with Holywell and Road To Riches joint third favourites at 8/1, and 10/1 bar.

In any event, regular jockey Nico De Boinville soon had Coneygree in his customary position at the head of affairs and, although drifting right up the famous Cheltenham hill, never really looked like being beaten. He stayed on very gamely in the closing stages to beat Djakadam by 1½ lengths with Road To Riches a further 2 lengths away in third. Bradstock said afterwards, “I’m numb, it’s wonderful. It won’t sink in for a while, but it’s great.”

As a footnote, perennial champion jockey A.P. McCoy, riding in his last Cheltenham Gold Cup, finished ninth on Carlingford Lough.

Monday 11 November 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2014

The 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Betfred, featured 13 runners and was a dramatic race with an historic, if controversial, finish. After two false starts, five horses, headed by 11/4 second favourite Silviniaco Conti, still held a chance jumping the final fence. However, on the run to the line, Silviniaco Conti veered right towards the centre of the track, while his nearest pursuer, 6/4 favourite Bobs Worth, became unbalanced after ducking away from the yellow jacket of member of security staff, handing the initiative to the horses that would eventually fill the first three places.

Lord Windermere, a largely unconsidered 20/1 chance, despite winning the RSA Chase at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival, had been left with plenty to do after the third last fence, but made relentless progress under pressure to lead inside the final half a furlong and held on, all out, to beat On His Own by a short head. However, in his exhausted state, Lord Windermere hung badly right on the run-in, carrying On His Own and the eventual third, The Giant Bolster, with him towards the stands rail.

The resulting stewards’ inquiry, which was televised, lasted 15 minutes, adding to the melodrama, but the result was ultimately allowed to stand. Stewards’ secretary Paul Barton said afterwards, “There was interference, without a doubt, but on balance we believe it was insufficient to cause us to change the result.”

Victory for Lord Windermere was an historic achievement for trainer Jim Culloty. Ten years after riding Best Mate to the third of his Cheltenham Gold Cup victories, the Kerryman became one of just five men – the others being Danny Morgan, Fred Winter, Jonjo O’Neill and Pat Taaffe – to have ridden and subsequently trained a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. Lord Windermere had been completely outpaced in the early stages of the race and, commenting on the ride Davy Russell had given the horse, Culloty said, jokingly, “To be fair now, halfway round, Davy was getting the sack.” 

Speaking of the sack, Davy Russell rode Lord Windermere to victory just 10 weeks after losing his job as retained rider to Gigginstown House Stud and completed a 3,926/1 treble on the day.

Monday 4 November 2019

Most Competitive Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is, of course, a ‘conditions’ race, in which entire horses and geldings carry the same weight, regardless of their previous form. Consequently, while it would be unfair the ‘Blue Riband’ contest ‘uncompetitive’ on occasions – it is, after all, the most valuable steeplechase of its kind run in Britain – only twice in its history has the number of runners ever approached the maximum allowed field of 24. With the festival just around the corner, which brings to mind these free bets from YesBets, let's take a look at the most competitive Cheltenham Gold Cup.

On the most recent occasion, in 2006, despite, or perhaps because of, the absence of Best Mate and Kicking King, 22 runners went to post. They were headed by Beef Or Salmon, trained by Michael Hourigan, who, despite being tailed off when pulled up behind Kicking King in the 2005 renewal, was officially the highest-rated horse in the field and was sent off 4/1 favourite.

According to the official handicapper, Beef Or Salmon had just 1lb in hand of the 169-rated Kingscliff, trained by the late Robert Alner, who started at 12/1, following two disappointing runs since beating Beef Or Salmon in the Betfair Chase at Haydock the previous November. Michael Hourigan’s 10-year-old likewise had 4lb in hand of the 166-rated Monkerhostin, trained by Philip Hobbs, who had only just failed when beaten a neck by Kicking King in the King George VI Chase, run at Sandown, the previous December, and started 13/2 second favourite.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup looked an unusually open race on paper and, from flagfall, was notable for its generous pace, thank in large part to several runners who liked to race on, or close to, the pace. Ollie Magern and Lord Of Illusion, both 33/1 outsiders, took the field along until the water jump on the circuit and, although only one horse came to grief – Celestial Gold, who unseated Timmy Murphy at the tenth fence – on going officially described as ‘good’, plenty of them found things happening just a shade too quickly.

The race was littered with costly mistakes and blunders. The well-backed Forget The Past, trained by the late Michael O’Brien, who had taken up the running at the end of the back straight, proceeded to spoil his chance by hitting the next fence and the fourth-last, while Cornish Rebel, trained by Paul Nicholls, was still well in contention when brought to a standstill by a shuddering blunder at the latter fence.

Meanwhile, another well-backed Irish raider, War Of Attrition, trained by Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, put in an exemplary round of jumping, taking the lead at the bypassed third-last fence and staying on strongly to eventually beat Hedgehunter, trained by Willie Mullins, by 2½ lengths. The winning time was 6 minutes and 31.70 seconds, 5.30 seconds faster than the standard time for 3 miles 2½ furlongs on the New Course at Prestbury Park.

Saturday 28 September 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2012

The 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored, for the first time, by Betfred, featured 13 runners and was won by Synchronised, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by A.P. McCoy. The race also featured the final racecourse appearance by Kauto Star, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice and the King George VI Chase five times, who was eventually retired from racing the following October.

Kauto Star was sent off 3/1 second favourite, behind defending champion and 7/4 favourite Long Run but, after losing a prominent early position at the seventh fence, weakened after a mistake at the next fence and was pulled up before halfway.

Meanwhile, Midnight Chase made the running until headed by Time For Rupert at the fourth last, where he blundered, but Time For Rupert, too, was swamped on the run to the second last fence. At that point, 50/1 outsider The Giant Bolster took the lead and looked, momentarily, as if he might cause an almighty surprise. However, Long Run, on his inside, jumped upsides at the last, while Synchronised, who’d been ridden along in sixth as the field turned back towards home, came home strongly on the outside under a vintage McCoy drive. The 8/1 chance fought his way into the lead shortly afterwards and kept on gamely up the hill for a dramatic win. The Giant Bolster rallied for second, beaten 2¼ lengths, with Long Run a further three-quarters of a length away in third.

McCoy, who celebrating his second win in the race, after Mr. Mulligan in 1997, said of Synchronised, “He’s an amazing horse and it was an amazing performance. He’s really delivered.”

Jonjo O'Neill, who became the latest of a select group of men to ride, and train, a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, said, “AP [McCoy] was brilliant on him, he knows him so well. Our big worry was keeping him in the race as, if he makes mistakes, he gets behind.”

Tragically, Synchronised next ran in the Grand National at Aintree less than a month later; ridden, once again, by A.P. McCoy, he was sent off 10/1 second favourite, but fell at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit and, despite getting up and galloping away, broke a hind leg after falling again, when running loose, five fences later and was put down.

Saturday 10 August 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2011

The 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, was a vintage renewal of the “Blue Riband” event, with three previous winners – Kauto Star, Denman and defending champion Imperial Commander – among the 13 runners. However, it was Long Run, winner of the rearranged King George VI Chase at Kempton in January, who started favourite at 7/2.

Owned by Robert Waley-Cohen and trained by Nicky Henderson, Long Run had been less than foot perfect when beaten in the RSA Chase and the Paddy Power Gold Cup on two previous visits to Cheltenham. However, despite again making mistakes, the six-year-old delivered his challenge at the second last and quickly put daylight between himself and his nearest pursuer. Denman finished second, beaten 7 lengths, while Kauto Star faded to finish third, a further 4 lengths adrift.

Kauto Star had taken the lead with a circuit to run, but was headed at the third last by fellow 11-year-old Denman and, turning into the straight, it appeared briefly that the “old guard” had the race between them. That was, of course, until Long Run, who’d been under pressure for a while, appeared on the scene between the last two fences and quickly put the result beyond doubt. The other “big gun”, Imperial Commander, was tailed off when pulled up and dismounted before the last fence and was found to be lame after the race.

Winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who became the first amateur jockey for 30 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, said afterwards, “That's a very special feeling and he's a very special horse. He's a whole lot better than I thought he was.”

Long Run was a first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for Nicky Henderson and the first six-year-old to win the race since Mill House 48 years earlier. Henderson later reflected on the race, saying, “This horse is still only six, so there is a lot to look forward to with him yet. Kauto Star was probably at his best today, but Long Run is a very good young horse.”

Friday 26 July 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2010

The 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured ten runners and produced a dramatic finish, with odds-on favourite Kauto Star taking a crashing fall at the fourth last fence. Trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009 and started 8/11 in his bid for a third Gold Cup victory.

However, the ten-year-old blundered badly at the eighth fence and appeared to be struggling long before parting company with his jockey. He was niggled along heading out on the second circuit and, although only 3 lengths down, was labouring in fifth place when falling at the fourth last, soon after the turn at the top of the hill. Ruby Walsh acknowledged that fact, saying, “His first one was a bad mistake. It knocked me out of position and I could not get him on an even keel.”

In any event, the race was won, in convincing style, by 7/1 third favourite Imperial Commander, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by Paddy Brennan. The seven-year-old was always prominent and, having taken the lead at the second last fence, was driven clear to win by 7 lengths, going away. The 2008 winner, and 4/1 second favourite, Denman finished a tired second under A.P. McCoy, but was still 23 lengths clear of 2009 Grand National winner Mon Mome who, at 50/1, stayed on strongly in the closing stages to deny Carruthers of third place in the dying strides.

Imperial Commander was a first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for trainer and jockey. Twiston-Davies was bullish about his charge, saying, “It’s just absolutely brilliant. It’s been very hard for us sat there with the third-favourite when all the talk was about Kauto and Denman, but we always knew we were going to win.”

Brennan, too, was cock-a-hoop, saying, “It's by far the best day of my life. I'm speechless. It was a dream the whole way.”

Sunday 9 June 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2009

The 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured 16 runners, but was billed as a rematch between stable companions Denman and Kauto, who had finished first and second in the race in 2008. On that occasion, Denman had fared better of the pair, staying on well in the closing stages to win by 7 lengths. However, after surgery for an irregular heartbeat the following September and a heavy defeat, at odds-on, on his reappearance at Kempton in February, “The Tank”, as he was affectionately known, was sent off 7/1 second favourite, despite being defending champion. Kauto Star, ridden, as usual, by Ruby Walsh started 7/4 favourite.

In race dominated by the market leaders, Paul Nicholls’ apparent third string Neptune Collonges led his stable companions Kauto Star and Denman coming down the hill for the final time, but was quickly joined, and passed, at the third last. From the home turn, at least for a stride or two, it appeared that the long-awaited rematch might develop, but it soon became clear that Kauto Star was travelling, by far, the better of the pair.

The favourite held a 5-length advantage jumping the second last and went further clear in the closing stage, eventually winning impressively by 13 lengths, the widest winning margin for 24 years. Although outpaced by the winner, Denman stayed on strongly to finish second under Sam Thomas, with Exotic Dancer, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by A.P. McCoy, 2½ further back in third place.

Having previously won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007, Kauto Star became the first horse in history to regain his crown. Winning trainer Paul Nicholls was ebullient in his praise of Kauto Star, saying, “He’s fit, he’s fresh, he was never going to get beat today.” Winning jockey Ruby Walsh was no less delighted, saying, “He’s the greatest horse I’ve ever ridden. Two miles, three miles, now two Gold Cups. He’s magic, he's a wonder horse.” 

Thursday 23 May 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2008

The 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured twelve runners, three of which were trained by Paul Nicholls, and a lopsided market, in which bookmakers offered 16/1 bar the first three in the betting at the off.

The race was billed, quite rightly, as a match between the defending champion, Kauto Star, and stable companion, Denman, hitherto unbeaten over fences and a 10-length winner of Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival the previous year. In fact, 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup was arguably the most anticipated since Arkle met “The Big Horse” Mill House for the first time in the 1964 renewal.

Kauto Star, ridden by Ruby Walsh, understandably started favourite at 10/11, with Denman, ridden by Sam Thomas, second favourite at 9/4 but, having tracked his other stable companion, Neptune Collonges – a largely unconsidered 25/1 chance – for most of the way, it was Denman who took the race by the scruff of the neck heading out on the second circuit.

Jumping economically, Denman gradually wound up the pace and, coming down the hill for the final time, opened up a lead of three or four lengths over his nearest pursuer, Neptune Collonges, with Kauto Star toiling back in third. By the second last, Denman was 10 lengths in front. Kauto Star ran on gamely in the closing stages to snatch second place from Neptune Collonges by a short head, but he could never make any real impression on the winner and was eventually beaten 7 lengths.

Winning trainer Paul Nicholls said, “Denman was awesome. He jumped and galloped and put Kauto on the back foot really,” adding, “Your first win in a race is always the best and I’ll never forget See More Business winning in 1999, but it doesn’t get any better than saddling the one-two-three in the Gold Cup.” Winning jockey Sam Thomas was less verbose, saying simply, “I don’t know what to say. I’m lost for words again. What a horse.”

Saturday 16 March 2019

Here Come The Girls - Female Jockey's Cheltenham Success!

In the previous post we were waxing lyrical about the bevy of female talent at the Cheltenham Festival, with praise being heaped on the 2018 performances (a record breaking four wins for female jockeys) and hopes for 2019. Could Rachael Blackmore,  Lizzie Kelly  and co show that they can more than mix it with the men?

Well, for those living under a rock I'm happy to announce that female jockeys once again shone at the Cheltenham Festival this year. On day one Rachael Blackmore was off to a winning start in the 4.50pm Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase aboard A Plus Tard, trained by Henry De Bromhead. 

Day two saw Bryony Frost bathe in glory, as the well backed Frodon ,stormed to victory in the 14:50 Ryanair Chase. In the process Frost, 23, made history in front of the 70,000 strong crowd by becoming the first female jockey to win a Grade 1 race at the Cheltenham Festival. So excited by her win was Frost, that she initially didn't even realise or recall that it was a Grade 1 race.

"He has wings and he is the most incredible battler. He travelled, and by God he jumps," said the elated jockey

Lizzie Kelly soon after made it a winning trio in The Plate on the Nick Williams trained Siruh Du Lac at 9/2. Could it get any better for our girls?

The answer is a resounding yes, as on the final day of Cheltenham Rachael Blackmore once again showed that she is not to be taken lightly. Blackmore struck the perfect balance on a keen Minella Indo, hitting the front early and holding on to claim victory on the 50-1 Shot in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle (yes another Grade 1 win, joining Bryony Frost!).  

So a record equalling four wins in total - matching last years record breaking total. What a way to round off a fabulous 2019 Cheltenham Festival for female jockeys!

Monday 11 March 2019

Leaps & Bounds: Cheltenham Festival Leading Jockeys

In the past decade at the Cheltenham Festival, while the Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award has been presented to just four men, the Holland Cooper Leading Jockey Award has been presented to just three, Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty and, most recently, Davy Russell.

Thanks in large part to long, fruitful associations with Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins – multiple champion trainers on their respective sides of the Irish Sea – Ruby Walsh is, far and away, the most successful jockey in the history of the Cheltenham Festival. Coincidentally, Walsh has ridden 58 winners, exactly the same number as Geraghty (36) and Russell (22) put together, which may account for the fact that he has won the Holland Cooper Leading Jockey Award eight times in the last ten years – and eleven times in all – whereas Geraghty and Russell have won it just once apiece.

Nevertheless, just over two decades ago, on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival in 1998, none of these leading jockeys had ridden a single winner at the so-called ‘Olympics of Horse Racing’, so it’s interesting to know how, and when, they began their quest for stardom.

Unsurprisingly, Ruby Walsh was the first to open his account at the Festival, when still an 18-year-old amateur, in 1998. That said, ‘Mr. R. Walsh’, as he was known to racegoers at the time, was reigning Irish amateur champion and rewarded the faith shown in him by Willie Mullins by guiding the five-year-old Alexander Banquet to a 2½-length victory of the favourite, Joe Mac, in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Barry Geraghty broke his duck at the Cheltenham Festival, at the age of 23, in 2002, partnering Moscow Flyer – who would later be rated alongside Burrough Hill Lad and Long Run in the top ten steeplechasers of the Timeform era – to a ready, 4-length win over the favourite, Seebald, in the Arkle Challenge Trophy. Now the fourth most successful jockey in the history of British National Hunt racing, and retained by powerful owner J.P. McManus, he still has time to increase his winning tally at the Festival.

Davy Russell, at the age of 39, is roughly the same age as Walsh and Geraghty, but was a relative latecomer to Festival success, partnering his first winner, Native Jack, in the Cross Country Chase in 2006. Even so, he has enjoyed a steady stream of winners – at least one at every Cheltenham Festival – ever since, including winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Lord Windermere in 2014. In fact, Russell enjoyed his best Cheltenham Festival ever, numerically, with four winners, including Balko Des Flos in the Ryanair Chase to win the Holland Cooper Leading Jockey Award  for the first time.

With International Women's Day just gone, let's not forget the contributions of female jockeys to the Cheltenham Festival. Nina Carberry rode her first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Dabiroun, in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle in 2005 and subsequently rode six more winners to become the most successful female jockey in the history of the Festival. Historically female jockey participation at Cheltenham has been a rarity especially when compared to the Grand National. That's changing though, with a record breaking four wins for female jockeys at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival including Lizzie Kelly on Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Kelly will be back on the same horse in the 2019 Festival, in addition to two other rides. Other female jockeys such as Rachael Blackmore and Bryony Frost will feature too to the potential for another bumper year for the ladies is high!

Thursday 7 March 2019

Cheltenham Festival: A Guide to Ladies Day


Whether you’re a first-timer or seasoned-regular, day two of the Cheltenham Festival is always one of the most popular – it’s Ladies Day. Never mind high-style, it’s all about high-class racing with seven races on show, including the prestigious Queen Mother Champion Chase. But expect to see a lot of tweed – and here we will take you through what to expect from day two.

The races

The Wednesday at the Cheltenham Festival kicks off with back-to-back grade 1 races for novices, beginning with the Novices’ Hurdle. Run on the old course, over two miles and five furlongs, the Irish-bred aptly-named Champ is the front runner with the bookies and has a decent record over hurdles.

Next up is the Novices’ Chase, which often sees many of the big-names battling for superiority, or previous winners at other races of the festival trying to add to their accolades. Delta Work is the favourite this year and is unbeaten this season in the chase. However, the winner generally goes on to be a big name in the world of racing.

The Coral Cup is the first of two handicap races on Ladies Day and is raced on the old course over two miles and five furlongs. Interestingly, no horse has ever won this race on multiple occasions. But Willie Mullins will be hoping to make it back-to-back wins as his hopes rest on Uradel, after winning with Bleu Berry in 2018.

The eagerly-awaited Queen Mother Champion Chase is set to be hotly contested again this year. The grade 1 steeple chase is run over nearly two miles and is the stand-out race on day two. 2018 saw Altior triumph by seven lengths, over Min – and the two horses are the favourites with the bookies again this year. Last year’s third-place horse, Gods Own can only muster odds of 33/1. But last year’s Arkle winner, Footpad could pose an outside threat – visit Betfair Champion Chase 2019 betting to make your selection.

The Cross Country Chase is one of the longest races at the Cheltenham Festival, run over three miles and six furlongs and consisting of 32 obstacles to be overcome. It is indeed a unique race and one that a lot of people enjoy watching, due to the nature of the course. Tiger Roll was victorious last year and is the favourite to win again this time around, a feat last achieved by Garde Champetre in 2008-09.

The penultimate race on Ladies Day is the second handicap race, the Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, which as the name suggests, is run by juvenile horses, aged four years. Band of Outlaws leads the way amongst the bookies at the minute, and he has a reasonable record in hurdles races. The race is fairly new, being introduced in 2005 and four years later, became a grade 3 race. The event is named in memory of Fred Winter, who was victorious 45 times at Cheltenham (17 as a jockey and 28 as a trainer).

If you’re wanting to see a rising star of the jump racing scene, then the Champion Bumper is the race for you. It’s perfect for young horses who have yet to make a racecourse and great for trainers to showcase their talent. Willie Mullins is the leading trainer, with nine victories in the Bumper and is hoping to triumph again with Blue Sari – however, understandably, it’s hard to pick out a winner.

The prize money

Day two sees a grand total of £1,020,000 won, which is marginally less than Champion Day. However, almost half of that is won from the Queen Mother Champion Chase alone (£400,000). You can find the full figures, here.

Saturday 2 March 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2007

The 2007 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured 18 runners but, frankly, will always be remembered for the presence of just one horse, Kauto Star.

Originally trained by Serge Foucher in France, Kauto Star joined Paul Nicholls in November, 2004, and recorded his first Grade 1 win in the Tingle Creek Chase, over 1 mile 7½ furlongs, at Sandown just over a year later. He rather blotted his copybook on his first visit to the Cheltenham Festival in 2006, falling at the third fence when 2/1 favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Nevertheless, he was unbeaten in 2006/07, including wins in the Betfair Chase, over 2 miles 7 furlongs, at Haydock, the Tingle Creek Chase, again, and the King George VI Chase, over 3 miles, at Kempton. In fact, 2007 Cheltenham Gold Cup was his first attempt beyond 3 miles, but he still started 5/4 favourite to make it 6-6 for the season.

Ridden by Ruby Walsh, as he was for most of his career in Britain, Kauto Star was held up at the rear of the field before improving his position just after halfway. Approaching the fourth last fence, at the top of the hill, he was on the heels of the leaders and, when asked for an effort, quickened to lead at the second last fence. Despite almost breasting the final fence, he stayed on strongly up the hill to win by 2½ lengths and the same from 9/2 second favourite Exotic Dancer and 40/1 outsider Turpins Green.

Kauto Star earned just over £242,000 for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup but, having already won the first two legs of the so-called “Betfair Million” – the Betfair Chase and the King George VI Chase – was also eligible for a bonus of £1 million.

“That was good,” said winning trainer Paul Nicholls in a major understatement, later adding, “He was going so well that I think he just lost his concentration at the last, but he never looked like falling. I don’t know what goes through his mind when he does that, but he’s not tired.”

Saturday 9 February 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2006

The 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, was run on St. Patrick’s Day and featured 22 runners, including four trained in Ireland and one trained in France. In fact, Beef Or Salmon, trained in Co. Limerick by Michael Hourigan and ridden by Paul Carberry, started a well-backed 4/1 favourite, despite having been beaten in the three previous renewals. However, having been held up early on, Beef Or Salmon made progress into midfield after halfway, but couldn’t make any further impression from the fifth last fence and eventually finished eleventh, beaten 19 lengths.

Meanwhile, War Of Attrition, trained in Co. Tipperary by Mouse Morris and ridden by Conor O’Dwyer, raced prominently on the outside of the field and took the lead from compatriot Forget The Past, trained by Michael O’Brien and ridden by Barry Geraghty, at the bypassed third last. Although pursued all the way to the line by 2005 Grand National winner Hedgehunter, War Of Attrition stayed on strongly up the hill to win by 2½ lengths. Forget The Past faded to finish third, a further 7 lengths away.

Hedgehunter had been well beaten by Beef Or Salmon, in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown on his previous start in February. Indeed, War Of Attrition, Forget The Past and Hedgehunter had all finished 4 lengths, and further, behind Michael Hourigan’s 7-year-old in the Lexus Chase at the Co. Dublin course the previous December, so there is every reason to believe that the favourite ran well below par. In fact, trainer Michael Hourigan said afterwards, “I have to believe people now when they say that he just doesn’t like it here. I've just spoken to his owners and said maybe we shouldn't bring him back here any more.”

In any event, War Of Attrition was a second Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for Conor O’Dwyer after Imperial Call a decade earlier. Furthermore, the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup was the first in which Irish-trained horses filled the first three places.

Saturday 2 February 2019

Why Biggest Threat to Buveur D’Air Champion Hurdle Hat-Trick at Cheltenham Festival Comes from Mares


Only the Cheltenham Gold Cup carries more prize money at the Festival than the Champion Hurdle, yet – despite a big pot on offer for winning it – there isn’t great strength-in-depth to this year’s renewal.

That may be one of the reasons why dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air is a best-price 7/4 favourite with Betfair to complete a hat-trick on Tuesday, 12 March. Some six weeks out from the Cheltenham Festival, it is still double figure prices bar the first two in the market and an unusually high number of mares are leading contenders for this championship contest.

Willie Mullins, who has trained the winner four times in the last eight runnings, is naturally well-represented in the Champion Hurdle through the likes of Melon and the improving Sharjah with both 10/1 ante post punts. Of those in behind Buveur D’Air, however, the eye isn’t drawn to these geldings but to the ladies.

Only four mares in Champion Hurdle history have won the race, yet they receive a 7lb sex allowance and that weight can be the difference between winning and losing. Buveur D’Air backers know this only too well, as he was beaten a short-head by Nicky Henderson stablemate Verdana Blue when touched off in the shadows of the post during the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

If the pair re-oppose in the Champion Hurdle, then they will do so off exactly the same terms. Verdana Blue thus looks great value and a solid each-way wager minimum at a best-price 12/1 with William Hill, while you can get your Cheltenham betting information now, as well as top offers at Free Bets UK.

Irish mares may be better than boys

Annie Power from Mullins’ yard was the last mare to capture the Champion Hurdle in 2016. Laurina looks to have similar potential and has won all five starts including at the Cheltenham Festival for the Irish champion trainer in facile fashion.

While all those have been against her own sex, it is the wide-margin nature of Listed and graded victories that suggest Laurina could be something special. The six-year-old is 4/1 second-favourite with Betway for the Champion Hurdle as a result, yet Mullins and owners Sullivan Bloodstock retain the option of keeping her against fellow mares.

Gigginstown House Stud are another of Ireland’s biggest supporters of National Hunt horse racing, and the plan was for them to have a serious tilt at one of the few races that have eluded them over the years with Samcro. That hasn’t worked out due to a lung infection; however, Apple’s Jade remains an alternative Champion Hurdle contender.

Trained by Gordon Elliott, the seven-year-old has been awesome this season winning three graded races against the geldings by increasing margins. Apple’s Jade tends to contest the Mares’ Hurdle over 2m 4f at Cheltenham and got turned over by Benie Des Dieux when found to be in season during the Festival last year.

While connections are unlikely to alter their plan, the temptation must surely be there – especially if she were to demonstrate the turn of foot needed to win the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. Apple’s Jade is as big as 14/1 with William Hill, but as short as 9/2 elsewhere and should she switch Cheltenham targets would have a huge shout.

Friday 1 February 2019

Cheltenham Week: Willie Mullins comments on Laurina’s chances in the Champion Hurdle


It was easily the most resounding victory of Laurina’s career to date, but trainer Willie Mullins is hopeful the six-year-old will be primed for the Champion Hurdle during Cheltenham week.

Cruising to a 48 length victory over her only opponent at Sandown on Saturday, Laurina is now second favourite for the Champion Hurdle after winning all her races since Mullins became her trainer.

Mullins’ comments

“Cheltenham is the plan and we’ll see if we get another race in between,” Mullins told The Guardian.

“We would have liked more competition, but winning races is what racing is about. We could possibly get another run and more practice into her but I’m happy. She’s a natural jumper and a good jumper and getting to Cheltenham sound is my priority now,” Mullins continued.

The legendary trainer will certainly be confident of Laurina making her mark when Cheltenham Festival comes round in eight weeks or so. Her main rival will be Buveur D’Air – who has won back-to-back Champion Hurdles – so it makes for an enticing and intriguing battle.

Saturday’s victory at Sandown will certainly have generated further interest in Laurina amongst punters and racing fans, and Mullins’ words suggest the foal will make quite the impression at Prestbury Park.

As exciting as Laurina’s expected battle with Buveur D’Air will be, Mullins confirmed he is quietly confident that the sky’s the limit for his newest project: “At this stage of her career she must be as good as, if not better than, any of them (previous winners Mullins has trained).”


Ruby Walsh thoughts

It was the first time jockey Ruby Walsh had ridden Laurina and as emphatic as the victory at Sandown was, the Irishman confirmed he expects more of the same in future races: “She’s unbeaten, so you don’t know where the ceiling is,” Walsh told The Guardian. “That’s what draws people to racing, that’s what the dream is about.”

Walsh’s victory was his first in the British season since May, and all eyes will be on the 39-year-old when the festival comes round in March. The two-horse race was almost farcical as Walsh cruised to victory but he was mightily impressed with Laurina’s performance, nonetheless.
“She galloped along a bit fresh probably,” Walsh said, “and she was entitled to be [fresh] but I couldn’t slow her down. I realised a long way out that Barry [Geraghty, on his sole opponent] was struggling but the more I tried to slow her down, the keener she was to go faster.

“How far she can go, you’ll never know until she’s beaten. If what seems to be there is there, she could be very good but we won’t know until I give her a kick in the belly. You never know but she leaves the impression that there’s a hell of a lot of horse under there.”

Buveur D’Air is the current favourite, priced at 13/8 with Laurina second (9/2) and Melon joint third alongside Sharjah (12/1). You can check out the rest of the field right here, with all ante-post markets available:


Cheltenham Gold Cup 2005

The 2005 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured 15 runners and had the distinction of being run, for the first time, on a Friday after a fourth day was added to the Cheltenham Festival. The original ante post favourite, Best Mate, who’d won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2002, 2003 and 2005, was withdrawn a week before the 2005 renewal after breaking a blood vessel during his final gallop at home in Oxfordshire.

In his absence, Kicking King, trained in Co. Kildare by Tom Taafe and ridden by Barry Geraghty, was sent off a well-backed 4/1 favourite to become the first Irish-trained winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup since Imperial Call in 1996. Kicking King, himself, had originally been withdrawn from the race two weeks earlier, only to be reinstated by Taafe after recovering from illness.

In the race itself, Grey Abbey, ridden by Graham Lee, and Sir Rembrandt, ridden by Andrew Thornton, led the field a merry dance for much of the way, but the race began in earnest when Kicking King took the lead at the third last. The one question mark over Kicking King, the King George VI Chase winner, was whether or not he’d stay the extra 2½ furlongs of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but his supporters never really had a moment’s worry. The 7-year-old was challenged, briefly, by Take The Stand, ridden by Tony Dobbin, at the second last fence, but ran on strongly on the run-in to win by 5 lengths. Sir Rembrandt plugged on to finish third, a further 8 lengths away.

Winning jockey Barry Geraghty said afterwards, “I was running away all the time, jumping brilliantly over the last three. Unbelievable – and he is only seven years old.”

Winning trainer Tom Taaffe, whose father Pat, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup four times, including three consecutive wins on the legendary Arkle in 1964, 1965 and 1966, said, tongue-in-cheek, “My son Pat was born the day this horse won at Leopardstown and I said that now we had the new Pat Taaffe, we just needed the new Arkle.”

Monday 28 January 2019

Cheltenham Preview

It is now less than two months to the start of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. The festival for those not 'in the know' is one of the highlights of the horse racing calendar. Initially titled the Grand National Hunt Meeting, the history of the festival dates as far back to 1860 when the festival was held at Market Harborough under the name - national hunt chase. Aside from the FIFA world cup and the UEFA champions league, (and of course, in the racing world, The Grand National)  there are few sporting events as popular in the UK as the Cheltenham festival.

Every year, over 200,000 race goers - both casual fans, and die hards - turn up to watch the Cheltenham festival. It's estimated that more than £500 million is spent on betting on the races every year. We advise punters to check out our Cheltenham tips for the best betting advice.

When will 2019 Cheltenham festival start?

As usual the Festival will take place in March. The 2019 Cheltenham festival will kick off on Tuesday March 12th 2019 and end on Friday March 15th 2019. According to the schedule released, the first race which is known as the Supreme Novices' Hurdle will start by 1:30pm.

Ladies day - 14th March 2019

Last year the ladies day held on the 14th of March but this year it will be 13th of the month. During Ladies day eager ladies wear their most beautiful clothes and colourful hats and show up at the races for a fun packed day. ladies day is one of the most popular Cheltenham events. The best dressed lady goes home with an handsome prize money of £10,000. not bad for a day's work!

St Patrick's day - 15th March

This year's St Patrick's day will take place on Thursday 14th 2019. The St Patrick's day event is usually a celebration of anything and everything that the Republic of Ireland is known for. The event usually come with enough Guinness for lovers of the popular Irish beer as well as plenty of Irish music. The Stayers' Hurdle is usually the attraction for many on this day.

The Gold Cup

The Gold Cup takes place on the last day of the Cheltenham Festival, on Gold Cup day. That hasn't changed and this year's Gold cup races will start at 3:30pm on Friday 15th of March. Gold Cup Day is understandably the most popular day in the Cheltenham Festival and this year is certainly going to be no exception to that. Previous winners of the Gold cup include Dawn Run, Kauto Star, Arkle and last year's winner Native River.

Thursday 24 January 2019

Right On Track: The Limitless Advantages of Betting A Horse Racing Show Online

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Today’s generation is undoubtedly a showcase of technology innovation in all given platforms. The birth and rise of technology have played an essential role in every mankind. A lot of people became glad because primarily technology has made our life easier.

In line with the vast rise of technology comes the development of websites and smartphone applications where people can access anything with just one click or tap on their phones. It is where wagering and betting online takes in place that brings so much convenience to every horse racing enthusiasts.

Aside from the fact that a horse racing live show like Kentucky Derby brings so much excitement for all horse racing bettors, another option to join the fun of wagering may also be done online. Take a look as we enumerate below the several advantages of betting online in a horse racing event.

Safety and Convenience

In a live track of all horse racing events, betting demands a longer and hassle process. Once you arrive in the location, you have to fall in line in order to secure a ticket pass and place your bets while others are waiting for their turn. Clearly, it’s a long and tiring process to take.

On the other hand, with the convenience of your smartphone and the internet, there are lots of legal betting sites where you can sign up and place money. Through this, you’ll be able to easily select your bets without going through the hassle of long lines.

In addition, it provides safety especially if you’re placing a tantamount of money for your desired bet. You won’t have to worry so much about the security and at the same time it’s going to be more convenient because you’re not leaving your house and doesn’t have to negotiate to someone you’re afraid to bet with.

Rebates, Rewards, and Bonuses

The biggest return you are going to get once you do an online betting for any sites is the value-added services that they give out to their loyal customer. Most of the online betting rewards may give you rebates, rewards, and bonuses upon betting.

Furthermore, they also set up a point system where you earn some points that can be converted to equivalent rewards every time you place a bet. These websites may also offer some cash or item reward conversion depending on the rewards system they are imposing.

Lastly, these rewards and bonuses that you will get are beneficial for you as an online horse racer better. While you put money to bet your horse racers, you have the ability to earn back the money you invested through the rebates and rewards that you’re going to earn from these sites.

Better Comparison of Odds

Together with the excitement, you feel during a live horse racing show, you’re chance of choosing the best bets may be affected. Always bear in mind that horse racers in all horse racing events like Kentucky Derby has very competitive entries and demands a lot of study before betting.

With the convenience of these online betting sites, you have the ability to compare all the odds without a hitch. You’ll be able to thoroughly study the odds of winning each racer because their numbers, predictions, and rankings are all laid out.

Lastly, you also have ample time visiting other online websites that give their opinions based on the racer's performance in their previous matches. In this way, your ability to win once you bet on a certain horse racer will be of a greater chance.

The Racing Coverage

Once you are in a live race of a horse racing track, you are only able to see the event from where you are seated and at the same time, you are locked in from where you are only placed during the event.

In this case, partaking and choosing an online betting gives you an imaginable coverage. Meaning, you can access different websites simultaneously which offers a free live coverage of the full racing activity allowing you to observe and see it at different levels.

Besides, these websites at the same time offer a lot of trajectory predictions of possible winners in the race. Not only but also, you have the chance you can conveniently complete with all the wagers that are joining the said event across the world.


Betting plays an important role in the horse racing history ever since it has existed. As mentioned, a lot of horse racing enthusiasts are looking forward to big horse racing events like to Kentucky Derby and wagering in this type of event is not easy.

Hence, online betting is a convenient, safe, and secure way of competing against other wagers across the world because of the benefits you will get as laid out above. Lastly horse racing sites like gives you the ability to forsee leading horse racers which may lead you to a bigger chance of winning.

Friday 4 January 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2004

The 2004 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured 10 runners, but was a one-sided contest, betting-wise, with Best Mate, trained by Henrietta Knight and ridden by Jim Culloty, sent off 8/11 favourite to become the first horse since Arkle, in 1966, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times.

French raider First Gold, trained by Francois Doumen and ridden by his son, Thierry, took the field along at a strong pace on rain-softened ground and put in an exhibition round of jumping until making a mistake at the tricky fourth last fence. Best Mate, who’d always been travelling comfortably in fourth or fifth place, moved closer to the leader at the fence after the water jump on the second circuit and was one of four in serious contention heading down the hill for the final time.

However, on the home turn, Best Mate was held in, on the inside, by Harbour Pilot, ridden by Paul Carberry and had to be pulled wide to make his challenge at the second last. However, to a crescendo of roars from the packed enclosures at a delirious Prestbury Park, Best Mate took the lead between the last two and was driven out up the hill to win by half a length. Sir Rembrandt, ridden by Andrew Thornton, finished well to take second ahead of Harbour Pilot, who finished 1¼ lengths further behind in third. Long-time leader First Gold weakened from the last to finish fifth, beaten 13½ lengths by the winner.

Best Mate became just the fourth horse, after Golden Miller, Cottage Rake and, of course, Arkle, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times. Henrietta Knight said, after his historic victory, “Today is today. We're looking forward, not back. Arkle was a great horse; Best Mate is a great horse. Let’s leave it like that.”