After a winter of record breaking rainfall with the majority of race meetings subsequently being staged on testing ground conditions, drier weather is forecast for the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival.
Watering is scheduled on the track which suggests that good going may be prevalent for possibly the first time this season with the form book of the previous three months not so relevant over the four day meeting.
Most top class horses are capable of producing their best form whatever the going and that should be the case when Hurricane Fly and Bobs Worth (pictured above) attempt to defend their crowns in the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup respectively. Hurricane Fly faces a stiff challenge in an open market when he seeks to win the Champion Hurdle for the third time, but it would appear that Silviniaco Conti represents the only serious challenger to Bobs Worth according to most bookmakers.
Yet the Cheltenham Gold Cup is more than just a two horse race and there may be good each value in backing THE GIANT BOLSTER at 20/1 with BetVictor. He has been second and fourth in the latest two Gold Cup renewals and he confirmed his liking for Cheltenham when winning the Argento Chase in January.
Among the other races, there is keen interest in the clash between unbeaten Annie Power and Big Bucks in the World Hurdle, but At Fishers Cross should not be ignored in this race. After a disappointing autumn, the Rebecca Curtis trained horse returned to form with an encouraging second position behind Knockara Beau at the course in January.
Big Bucks was third that day but was conceding 4lb to the second horse who will again be ridden by Tony McCoy. Last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle winner is 13/2 at William Hill to claim the World Hurdle.
With the defection of last year’s winner Cue Card from the Ryanair Chase, Dynaste and Al Ferof lead the market, yet Hidden Cyclone represents good value. His third place in the Paddy Power Chase in November, when conceding a stone to the first two horses, was an admirable performance and he prefers good ground. A consistent horse this season, Hidden Cyclone is available at odds of 16/1 with Betfred for this race.
Among the other races, the Donald McCain trained CORRIN WOOD should not be ignored in the RSA Chase. With an unbeaten record over fences culminating in the defeat of the respected Paul Nicholls horse Black Thunder at Warwick in January, Corrin Wood is currently offered at 9/1 with Boylesports to complete a four-timer.
As for the novice hurdle races, once again they appear very competitive with too many unknown factors in the prospective fields whereas the Coral Cup always attracts a large field but usually comprises seasoned campaigners with an element of established form. It often pays to look at one of the outsiders for each way value and THOMAS CRAPPER is one to note at 33/1 with Paddy Power. Already a twice winner at Cheltenham over course and distance in autumn, he will be running over his favoured distance and ground on a mark only 6 higher from his previous win.
Finally, the Weatherbys Champion Bumper always attracts many aspirants to the jumping game with Willie Mullins often sending over several runners from Ireland. His unbeaten gelding Shaneshill created a very favourable impression last time at Fairyhouse and is reasonably priced at 8/1 with Ladbrokes.
Recommended bets at Cheltenham Festival
- Cheltenham Gold Cup – 5pts EW – The Giant Bolster @ 20/1 BetVictor
- RSA Chase – 10pts Win – Corrin Wood @ 9/1 Boylesports
- Coral Cup – 5pts EW – Thomas Crapper @ 33/1 Paddy Power
Picture of The Giant Bolster courtesy of Meteorshoweryn