Friday 15 February 2019

Best Bets For The Four Champions Races At The 2019 Cheltenham Festival

There are 28 races scheduled for the 2019 Cheltenham Festival but the four Championship contests are the ones which stand out more than any other across the week. Here is a preview of those four races and the best bets in each renewal.

Champion Hurdle

Buveur D’Air is bidding for his third straight Champion Hurdle success this year which would put him alongside some of the great hurdlers who have managed to achieve that feat. The eight-year-old tops the betting to come out on top again, however, his defeat at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle may suggest he is worth opposing at the prices this year.

The good news for racing fans is that connections of Apple’s Jade have revealed she will line up in this race after she was so impressive in the Irish Champion Hurdle earlier this month. Annie Power was the last mare to win the premier hurdle contest in 2016 and with a seven-pound weight allowance in her favour, she is likely to have plenty of supporters.

The top two in the betting both have solid chances, however, it may pay to back the younger mare in the race in Laurina who is available at 7/2. She was such a comfortable winner of the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle last season and looks more than good enough to take her chance against the opposite sex here.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Blue Riband event of National Hunt racing and as always it should be another fascinating contest. Last year’s winner Native River is set to return to bid to retain his crown, something which has not been done since Best Mate won the race for the third time in 2014.

Native River has had an average campaign so far as he was second at Haydock in the opening leg of the Chase Triple Crown, while he finished third at Kempton in the King George VI Chase. This 3m2f contest is a real test of stamina though and will suit him perfectly once again.

The leading novice of last season Presenting Percy will be stepping up against the older and more experienced horses this time around and on the evidence of his dominant RSA Chase victory last March, you think he would have a strong chance. Sadly we have only seen him once this season and after making a winning reappearance at Gowran Park, he was cut for Gold Cup glory by the bookmakers.

Last year’s runner up Might Bite has had a really disappointing campaign so far. He was travelling so well in the King George at Kempton before dropping down the field in the closing stages. Although there may have been reason for that poor showing from Nicky Henderson’s horse, it is hard to see him returning to form again in time therefore at 5/1 in the ante-post market, Native River is the best bet to outstay his rivals up the hill for a second time in the Blue Riband contest.

Queen Mother Champion Chase
One of the shortest priced favourites at the Festival this year is Altior who is 2/5 to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second consecutive year. Henderson’s runner has won all 12 of his starts over fences and it is hard to see when his first defeat will come, such has been his dominance.

Altior began his season at Sandown where he prevailed in the Tingle Creek Chase. Just weeks later he won the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, while more recently, he was faultless again in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

If you are not having a bet in the Champion Chase, you can admire the quality of Altior as horses like him don’t come around too often. For those looking to have a bet though, the best way to play here is in the betting without the favourite market with Min who finished second behind the winner in 2018. Willie Mullins’ chaser landed the Dublin Chase earlier this month and he looks to be the one who will get closest to Altior again.

Stayers’ Hurdle

The Stayer’s Hurdle is one of the most open Championship races this season but the standout performer in the division this season has undoubtedly been Paisley Park who has claimed the Long Walk Hurdle and Cleeve Hurdle.

Emma Lavelle’s stablestar was so impressive last time at Cheltenham where he was ridden clear after the last hurdle to record a 12 length margin of victory. A repeat of that performance will ensure he is hard to beat in this race where he is 9/4 in the betting.

One of the most interesting runners in the race is former Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen. At his peak the Irish horse was very difficult to beat over 2m. On his opening appearance at 3m he won the Champion Stayers’ Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, therefore, he has proved he can be effective at this trip. Willie Mullins’ runner will tempt plenty of punters in at 8/1 but it is Paisley Park who looks the most likely winner to cap off what has been a fantastic campaign for the horse.

If you are having a bet on the four Championship races today, a number of bookmakers are now offering non-runner no bet, therefore, you will be able to get insurance just in case your horse does not line up on the day of the contest.

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