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15 Feb 2019 by TSZ

2019 Cheltenham Festival Trends

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The Cheltenham Festival is as big as National Hunt horse racing gets in the UK. Global sporting attention is firmly fixed on the Gloucestershire racetrack for four days in March as the British championship races take place.

While stats can't guarantee you'll find the winner of the 28 different events scheduled to take place during the Festival, there are certain Cheltenham trends that are worth knowing before betting. Here are some of the key ones.

Henderson and McManus: A recipe for Champion Hurdle success?

Reigning British Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson is the most successful in the history of the Champion Hurdle. This valuable race is the feature contest on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

Henderson has saddled four different horses to win the two-mile championship hurdle race on seven occasions. Two of those winners have finished first three times for Irish owner JP McManus.

As a legendary gambler and huge supporter of horse racing, McManus loves having Cheltenham Festival winners. He, too, has won the Champion Hurdle seven times and, together with Henderson, is responsible for this year's favourite, Buveur D'Air.

The eight-year-old gelding has won the race in each of the last two years, but faces some stiff competition in his bid for a third success from the mares, who can claim a 7lb sex allowance against him. They include Kempton Christmas Hurdle conqueror Verdana Blue, also trained by Henderson, and Irish duo Laurina and Apple's Jade.

It's been 50-50 in the last 20 years as to whether favourites have won the Champion Hurdle. As a result, it may be prudent to follow the advice of the pro punters, whose diligent studying of the form guide and statistics for each horse racing card means they are well-placed to suggest whether the hat-trick is on in 2019.

Eight-year-olds have the best recent Gold Cup record

"Cheltenham Gold Cup" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06

The race everyone wants to win most is the Cheltenham Gold Cup and, in recent times, it's horses aged eight that boast the best record. Four of the last six to win steeplechasing's showpiece event fit that profile.

This trend bodes well for the Pat Kelly-trained Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy, as does the fact that two of the last three – and three of the last five – winners have been Irish-trained.

It's not just the usual suspects in the Emerald Isle, either, as Jim Culloty and dual-purpose handler Jessica Harrington have enjoyed victories in the big one over an extended three-and-a-quarter miles.

Ten-year-olds, meanwhile, look like one age bracket to avoid, as there hasn't been a Gold Cup winner that old in the last 20 years. Horses aged between seven and nine, with particular reference to the middle of that range, is where to focus your search.

Be wary of favourites in Festival handicaps

Away from the big championship events, each one of the Cheltenham cards across the four days has handicap races. While two favourites won such contests last year, they were the first successes for Festival market leaders in handicaps since 2014.

Certain handicap events are known for being particularly poor for favourites. The Coral Cup and the County Hurdle often throw up big-price winners, so there's no substitute for studying the form.

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