This year at the Cheltenham Festival, over £600 million is estimated to change hands during the 28 races and here at TSZ, we aim to provide you with the trends and stats that may help give you the edge. We shall focus on the main races each day, which are the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, the Stayers' Hurdle on Thursday and of course the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, whilst we also provide some quick-fire stats for the chief supporting races too. It must be emphasised though that although we will try to let you know which horses the stats are pushing, we shall also take into account the form of horses in our analysis section too.
Tuesday 14th March
The feature race on the first day is the Champion Hurdle; this is a two-and-a-half-mile furlong race for the fastest hurdlers in National Hunt racing, and being able to jump smoothly whilst travelling at speed is paramount.
With Irish based trainers having a very successful record in this race, it brings the horse Petit Mouchoir, who is trained by Henry de Bromhead, sharply into focus. The horse is one of the favourites in the betting, is six years of age and has won two key trials in the build up to the race. Quite simply, the horse’s profile ticks a lot of boxes when it comes down to the trends. Yanworth is fancied by many to steal the glory but it must be noted that only one of the last 21 Christmas Hurdle winners have gone on to win the Champion Hurdle in the same season. Is this stat alone enough to put you off backing Yanworth or are records there to be broken? If you look elsewhere, then you may fancy Buveur D’air, trained by English based trainer Nicky Henderson, who has started the campaign with two wins over fences; however, this horse is likely to prefer softer conditions. Henderson also has a second string to his bow in Brain Power, who impressed last time out and with the ground expected to dry up, his speed could become a major asset. We would be foolish to discount Willie Mullins’ trained horse Footpad at higher odds, given his excellent record in the race but only one five year old has won since 1985.
Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase
Wednesday 15th March
The feature race on Wednesday is the Queen Mother Champion Chase; the race is run over two miles and is another big test of jumping at speed.
The name on everyone’s lips here has to be Douvan; the horse is many people’s idea of a Cheltenham banker and punters will surely be lumping their money on the Willie Mullins trained horse. Douvan fits the profile in terms of age, and ticks the checklist in terms of recent winners, having a starting price of less than 5-1 and an official rating of 174. Many other trainers will be trying to thwart Douvan but this looks a tough task; trainer Kerry Lee has supplemented Top Gamble into the race at a cost of £17,500, but the greatest challenge may come from Gods Own, Fox Norton and Special Tiara (third in this race in the last two years), who is likely to be a frontrunner and apply a little pressure to Douvan’s jumping ability.
Thursday 16th March
Into the third day of the festival and it’s all about the Stayers’ Hurdle (previously known as the World Hurdle).
With 60% of favourites winning in the last ten years, on the face of it this seems like backing the favourite could be the way to go here. This year sees one horse dominate the ante post betting, and that is Unowhatimeanharry; the horse will start as favourite, is nine years of age and is looking to extend his winning run to nine races, having dominated the division, including winning both key trials. However, for those of you not interested in backing short price favourites, backing either Jezki or Shaneshill may be more your thing. Jezki will hope the ground keeps drying up and the horse’s current price of around 7-1 is likely to shorten; the horse was placed in the top two on its last run and is nine years of age. Shaneshill has been placed in the last two festivals so does enjoy Cheltenham and was an impressive winner last time out; however, the horse is trained by Willie Mullins who has not won this race in the last 15 years.
Friday 17th March
The Cheltenham Gold Cup, run over three miles and two furlongs, is the feature race of the entire meeting and takes place on the Friday.
The 2017 edition of the Cheltenham Gold Cup is sadly without Thistlecrack; a horse who was favoured by many and had already won a key trial for this race before having to withdraw due to injury. Despite trainer Colin Tizzard being without Thistlecrack, he still has two leading fancies for the race in Cue Card and Native River. Quite simply, Cue Card does not fit the age profile of past winners as he is now 11 years old; however, he did win the Betfair Chase and was travelling superbly last year before falling.
Native River has also impressed for Colin Tizzard, and has won over three miles in the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Welsh Grand National at the tail end of 2016; therefore, there should be no question mark over his stamina but will his arduous campaign so far catch up with him? Willie Mullins will also fancy his chances of winning a first Cheltenham Gold Cup with Djakadam, who has been runner-up in the last two years. Other horses worthy of a mention are firstly Outlander; the horse’s price may shorten which would see him head towards the 8-1 starting price or shorter, he is nine years of age and won at three miles on his last start over in Leopardstown. Secondly, we have Sizing John who again fits the age profile; his price may shorten towards the 8-1 mark and the horse won at three miles in his last trip to the Irish Gold Cup, beating another possible runner in Empire of Dirt; however, this horse also holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday and will be a leading contender if connections choose to run him in this race.
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
Hopefully, these stats and trends have helped to point you in the right direction. Who will triumph in a competitive looking Champion Hurdle? Will Unowhatimeanharry and Douvan be unstoppable? Can Willie Mullins finally win a Cheltenham Gold Cup or can old timer Cue Card defy the records? There’s not too long now until we find out. Let us know in the comments section who you are backing as we sit back and enjoy a marvellous four days of racing.