Cheltenham Festival 2013 Preview
The frost covers have been in place on the Cheltenham track over the weekend as the cold weather took hold over much of the UK, however there are no doubts the biggest race meet of the year will definitely go ahead and we look forward to four days of action packed racing.
The festival highlights are the Stan James Champion Hurdle, Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ladbrokes World Hurdle, and Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. We take a closer look at these races and pick out our selections for the week.
3:20pm 12th March, Tuesday: Stan James Champion Hurdle (2miles, 110 yards)
The Champion Hurdle is the biggest hurdle in the racing calendar and pits four year old horses and above against each over 8 hurdles. The betting history has been marked by antepost short priced favourites who rarely go on to win the race, with the favourite last winning in 2006. As such like most Cheltenham races it presents great opportunity for punters looking for big priced winners.
Hurricane Fly is the favourite and best priced at 2/1 with Paddy Power, having won the race in 2011 and piped into third place in 2012. Hurricane Fly has been in tremendous form and many pundits believe he is stronger than ever. The nine horse field is further made up of last year’s winner Rock on Ruby best priced with Coral at 4/1, and the ever improving Paul Nicholl’s trained Zarkander priced at 7/2 with Sky Bet. The field is further strengthened by the 2010 winner Binocular priced at 9/1 with Sporting bet, past runner up Khyber Kim priced at 50/1 with Boyles Sports. The Nick Henderson trained Grandouet is offered at 8/1 with Blue Square with the remainder of the field made up of Cinders and Ashes (best priced at 12/1 with Sky Bet), Countrywide Flame (16/1 with Betfred) and the outsider Balder Succes offered at 100/1 with Bet Victor.
For me Hurricane Fly’s quality cannot be disputed and he has rarely disappointed, although many of his races have been in smaller fields. It’s too easy to go for Hurrcane Fly, and for me Zarkander is a horse on the rise having made outstanding progress in the last 12 months. Much of that is already priced in and his odds have come from around 5/1 in only a few weeks. Zarkander in my opinion has been the most impressive horse of the field in recent form and I would go for Zarkander at 7/2 with Sky Bet although it’s a real toss of a coin with Hurricane Fly. I don’t see a genuinely tempting long shot in this race and would be astonished if one of the top three favourites didn’t win this race
Zarkander to Win at 7/2
3:20pm 13th March, Wednesday: Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase (2 miles)
Day two provides more drama with the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The races dates back to 1959, although was actually only renamed as the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1980 in order to mark the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday. The race pits 10 five year old horses and above over 12 fences on a 2 mile course.
A ten horse field contingent battle for part of a £350,000 prize pool on Tuesday, with the majority of past winners having been priced at odds of 6/1 or less. This race perhaps lacks the true competitiveness that most love so much about Cheltenham as Sprinter Sacre, the favourite is priced at a lowly 2/7 with William Hill. Sizing Europe is next at 6/1 with Coral, Cue Card is best priced with Bet365 at 8/1 and Finians Rainbow is priced at 14/1 with Sky Bet. The longer priced horses come in at more favourable odds; Mail De Bievre priced at 16/1 with William Hill, Wishful Thinking at 20/1 with Sporting Bet, Sanctuaire priced at 20/1 with Betfred, Somersby chalked up at 25/1 Blue Square, Realt Dubh best priced at 40/1 at William Hill and the long shot Tataniano at 100/1 with Blue Square.
Even the fiercest contrarian will find it difficult to look far beyond Sprinter Sacre and despite being priced at around 1/4 with the top bookies you cannot say it is without good reason. Sprinter Sacre has won all seven of his last races over fences and I can’t see past this short priced favourite. This certainly won’t be the most competitive race seen at Cheltenham this year but if you want to bag a confidence boosting winning bet for day 2 back Sprinter Sacre at 2/7 with William Hill.
Sprinter Sacre to Win at 2/7
3:20 pm 14th March, Thursday: Ladbrokes World Hurdle (3 miles)
The highlight of Day 3 is the World Hurdle race. This race is very much for the Cheltenham connoisseur with a field of around 18 generating a host of variables one must consider. One of the newer races and longer race of the festival at 3 miles, the World Hurdle is over a gruelling 12 fences. These races tend to be less predictable as so many factors come in to play over such a long course and in a race involving so many top quality horses. For the value punter this race provides more interest in my view as each way backers can generate a bumper return for a relatively small stake. The race is open to four year olds and older, although previous winners have all been at least 6 years old.
The field is on target to be comprised of 18 horses in all. Despite the large field the favourites have tended to perform fairly well in the recent past achieving top three finishes in the majority of the last 5 years. This year’s joint favourites in the absence of four times winner Big Bucks, is Reve De Sivola and Quevaga priced at 4/1 with Betfred. The field is then made up of the following; Oscar Whisky best priced at 9/2 at Sporting Bet, Bog Warrior priced at 9/1 with Betfred, Solwhit priced at 9/1 with William Hill, Peddlers Cross at 9/1 Bet365, Wonderful Charm chalked at 10/1 with Coral , Get Me Out Of Here priced at 11/1 with William Hill, Smad Place at 14/1 with Sky Bet , So Young offered at 25/1 with Boyles Sports , Zaidpour at 33/1 with Bet Victor , Fiveforthree best priced at 33/1 with Ladbrokes , Oscara Dara at 40/1 with Bet Victor , Celestial Halo at 50/1 with Betfred , Back In Focus chalked in at 50/1 with Stan James , Cross Kennon coming in at 100/1 with Bet Victor , American Spin at 200/1 with Sporting Bet , Cloudy Spirit at 200/1 with Stan James.
This race will divide opinion with relatively short priced favourites and a host of long shots which have the ability to stay the course. Of the last five years no winner has been longer odds than 8/1, although that stat means little here as the Big Bucks (who is absent in this race) was the winner in the last four years of this race. I really fancy an outsider to win this and will be backing a win and each way for my two picks. You could make a credible case for 6 or 7 horse in this race, however I like the look of Peddlers Cross (9/1 with Bet365) and Zaidpour (Bet Victor). Pedlers Cross now eight years old has enormous talent and although taken some time to find precisely where he fits in the racing world, I believe this could be the stage for him to shine. Zaidpour offers better value and I think is a decent chance to place having performed well in races over in Ireland recently where he finished top 2 on four consecutive occasions. At odds of 33/1 Zaidpour offers good value for the place and I will certainly be chalking that one on my slip.
Peddlers Cross Win and Each Way at 9/1
Zaidpour Win and Each Way at 33/1
3:20 pm 15th March, Friday: Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup (3 miles + 2 1/2 furlongs)
The final day of the festival sees the Cheltenham Gold Cup finish the action off. The 3 and 2 ½ furlong race is contested between 5 year old horses and with 22 fences to jump. The race is arguably the most high profile race in the calendar along with the Grand National. The race has not been won by a horse at odds of 10/1 or greater in over a decade demonstrating the domination quality well backed top tier favourites horses have had in this race. The race will not feature Gold Cup stalwarts Kauto Star and Denman although a new generation of superstars lie in wait this year. The race is expected to be contested between 12 horses and will cap Ladies day at Cheltenham Racecourse.
The field is highly competitive although most punters would look at the four main contenders for this race; Bob’s Worth is priced in at 3/1 with Bet365 edges out as favourite over Sir Des Champs at 4/1 with Coral, next coming Silviniaco Conti best priced at 5/1 with Paddy Power and Long Run at 6/1 with Blue Square. The rest of the field is comprised of First Lieutenant at 12/1 with Boyles Sports, Captain Chris at 14/1 with Bet365 , Cape Tribulation at 16/1 with Betfred , The Giant Bolster at 16/1 with Sporting Bet , Sunnyhillboy at 40/1 with William Hill , Bog Warrior at 50/1 with Betfred , Wayward Prince at 66/1 with Sky Bet , and finally Monbeg Dude at 66/1 with Paddy Power.
This race has a rich history and I firmly the winner will come from the main four in this race; Bobs Worth, Long Run, Sir Des Champs, and Silviniaco Conti. The Nicky Henderson trained Long Run has form in this race, having won the race in 2011 and came second last year and given an each way punt is likely to generate a return it seems a no brainer to back Long Run at each way at 6/1 with Blue Square. Bob’s worth at 3/1 with Bet365 as favourite is not tempting me one bit; his lack of race time raises major doubts and further his most recent win was back in December, so for me he cannot be backed at such a short price in this company. The Irish trained Sir Des Champs has been trained solely for this race and still lacks genuine credibility to be backed at such short price. Out of the top four I favour Long Run at 6/1 (Blue Square) and Silviniaco Conti at 5/1 with Paddy Power. Silviniaco Conti is trained by Paul Nicholls who trained Kauto Star, and has won all three of his races so far this season so certainly has the kind of background I would expect a Gold Cup winner to have and in my opinion offers far better value than either the two smaller priced Bobs Worth and Sirs Des Champs. For those who fancy a longer shot, Captain Chris at 14/1 with Bet365 stands out for me and has produced some strong displays in big races in recent time, and at 14/1 is overpriced and a good each way back.
Silviniaco Conti to Win at 5/1
Captain Chris Win and Each Way at 14/1
Francois is one of Howtobet4free’s co-founders and has written many of Howtobet4free’s popular Betting Guides. Francois also helps run the @howtobet4free_ Twitter account