Racing News Blog


2018 Cheltenham Festival

So here we are about to enter the biggest week on the racing calendar …

The Cheltenham festival is the main week in the National Hunt calendar which is spread over four days every March. All the big trainers have the festival as their main focus during the season aiming to be in form come March. It is where the biggest prize money is bar the Grand National and where every owner, trainer and Jockey wants to get the winners. If you have never been it is well worth a visit because there is no meeting like it. The buzz around the whole of Cheltenham is unreal in all the pubs and the walk up to the course. When you get inside the atmosphere is so different to any other meetings. On day one we will get the roar at the off when the Novice hurdlers go off in the Supreme which is always the opening race of the whole meeting as we get to enjoy four amazing days of top quality animals going against each other.

This year I won’t be there but I will be watching the festival from my office. For anyone even mildly interested in horse racing the festival can get the blood pumping and emotions come into play. Being a huge National Hunt fan as I am sure many of you are this can cause a potential problem if we are planning on trading the festival. Emotions in trading is a bad thing so how do we deal with this?

I am sure you have seen the internet, television and in the papers going crazy building up to what is an amazing four days with mad bookmaker offers and traders telling you they can make green trades on every market and will make thousands. In reality a lot won’t and the festival can become rather overwhelming for many so much so you might be glad to see the back of it if you are a trader. So many have opinions on different animals and if you are not careful you can let your ego get the better of you combined with emotions running high it is a cocktail that is perfect to assist you in blowing a hole in your trading bank.

I don’t normally straight bet during the year my focus is always geared towards trading however the festival I do enjoy a few bets because it is a special meeting. My plan is to use a separate bookmaker  account put some bets on in the morning then chill out and enjoy the festival. I can then trade as normal. If an opportunity pops up then great if it does not then I will wait to strike when one does. Some of the races are big fields and sometimes these can be more difficult to trade in running so a real waiting game might be needed. We must also not forget there will no doubt be opportunities away from Cheltenham at other tracks. So staying grounded and controlling your emotions is important and something to be extra aware of.

Jockey Ruby Walsh normally has a good festival and is favourite to pick up the top jockey honours. He has been lucky to have had some great rides down the years under Paul Nicholls and in recent years Willie Mullins. He has just returned from injury after breaking his leg earlier in the season and won the other day on his return. He will mount the best of Willie Mullins horses.

Gordon Elliott took over as top festival trainer last year and he has had a cracker this season. Having the large part of the Gigginstown runners does help and he is likely to give most of his rides to Davey Russell and Jack Kennedy. Of course Ruby could well pick up the winning jockey crown again but I have a sneaky feeling this year Jack Kennedy could become the real rising star. He broke through last season but he could really stake his claim as a top jockey here and could well take the mounts on Samcro and Apple’s Jade who are both potentially strong favourites. I think he is worth a small festival bet to be top jockey at 5/1 with some firms. I have taken 7s on the exchange and we only need a couple of winners for him on day one and for Ruby to have a frustrating day for the odds to drop in our favour.

Jack Kennedy on board Apple’s Jade in the Grade 2  Lismullen Hurdle at Navan in November.

Day One is Champion day after the Supreme we will have the Arkle Chase and along with some handicaps and a mares hurdle we will also get to see if Nicky Hendersons  Buveur D’air will retain his crown in the Champion Hurdle. On Day two it will be Ladies day with more novice action with the Ballymore then the RSA chase, coral cup and the big race is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Following that we will see the classic Cross country chase then some hurdle action finishing off with the Champion Bumper. Thursday is the St Particks day card with the Ryanair chase and stayers hurdle this all builds up to  Gold cup day on the Friday where the biggest race happens which involves seasoned chasers going over the 3 miles two and a half furlongs in the blue ribbon race in a bid for Gold cup glory.

Noel Fehily on board the winner Buveur D’air in the 2017 Champion Hurdle

I am lucky to have been there a few times and the atmosphere is 2nd to none during the Gold cup. This years race looks wide open so here is my run down of the big race of the whole meeting.

15:30 Cheltenham 16 Mar 2018

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5YO plus)

Sadly Sizing John won’t be back to defend his crown but his stablemate will be involved as a main contender . I wrote about him as  one of the top contenders back in October to keep an eye on during the season on the blog in Our Duke since writing the horse was not right on his first run of the season he spent some time off to under go a back operation and his run on his return was very good finishing 4th in the Irish Gold cup behind Djakadam, Outlander and the winner Edwulf. Considering he was returning from injury he traveled and jumped well that day. He then won at Gowran Park beating Presenting percy  over a shorter trip of 2 mile 4. I advised members that if he came out of that race well that his odds would likely to be cut for the Gold cup so the 16/1 on offer was a good bet ( now 6/1) He won from the front that day and going off last seasons form if he can come on from that run he has a real chance in this years Gold cup. Last years winning jockey Robbie Power will take the ride.

Native River is the other animal in this field that I think will go well again this year. He finished 3rd last year with a prominent run after a tough season winning the Hennessy, Welsh Grand National and the Denman chase. Colin Tizzard’s horses were not quite right during last years festival and this animal still pulled out a good 3rd place after them tough races. Tizzard has hit form at the right time this year and he has been wrapping this animal up in cotton wool for this race. Native River has only been seen once retaining his crown in the Denman chase where Richard Johnson made all on top in a fairly straight forward round of jumping in a three runner field. I advised members that if he came out of that race well that his odds would likely to be cut for the Gold cup so the 8/1 was a good bet ( now 4 or 5/1)Tizzard knows Native Rivers best runs come in his 2nd and 3rd runs of the season so he will be happy with the prep for this animal. The champ will take the ride again this year and I would expect a bold bid with a prominent run. He will love the ground especially if it cuts up a lot over the week and it would not shock me to see him go off as favourite.

True sportsmanship from Richard Johnson congratulating Robbie Power winning the Gold Cup on Sizing John in 2017

Might Bite is the progressive animal who stepped out of novice company this season. He won all five runs last year and on seasonal opener around Sandown. He then followed that up winning the King George on Boxing day beating Double Shuffle and Tea for two. You can argue that was a weak race but the horse can only beat what is put in front of him. This will without doubt be his toughest test to date but in a wide open race you can’t ignore his chances. He was placed firmly as the favourite for this race after his King George win. He won at the festival last season but nearly gave the race away in the RSA novices chase. He started Idling up the hill possibly spooked by the crowd to display his quirks and if he does that in this race he is unlikely to get away with it no matter what engine he has. He is likely to run in touch and top jockey Nico de Boinville will take the ride. The horse is clearly a talent but there are doubts over the horses quirks and the ground if it is heavy going is against him.

Nico de Boinville Victorious on board Might Bite in last seasons RSA Chase.

Road to Respect  is the leading Gigginstown charge he was last seen winning the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown beating Minella Rocco, Outlander, Sizing John, Djakadam and Edwulf. He finished runner up the race before to Outlander but beat him along with Minella Rocco on seasonal opener at Punchestown. His trainer has a small concern if he will stay the extra two and a half furlongs. But he has proven over 3 miles and off the form of the Christmas Chase has a chance and is one to watch for.

Definitly Red  was campaigned last season for the Grand National and was badly hampered in the race so was pulled up. He has had a good campaign this season last seen winning the Cotswold Chase around Cheltenham beating American he is likely to be prominently ridden and has a chance in this race. He will love the soft cut in the ground.

Danny Cook on board Definitly Red winning the Cotswold Chase

Djakadam might not run in this race this year but if he does the current 25 -33/1 is a huge price. He finished runner up in 2015, 2016 and 4th last year. I would be looking at the place market if this animal runs at that price. Granted his season has not panned out as connections would have liked but if he can run a race anywhere near the last three Gold cups he is worth a look in one of the bigger place markets.

Two other horses in the Willie Mullins yard are Total Recall and Killultagh Vic the former has looked a smart operator since joining the yard and ran an excellent race at Newbury in December beating last seasons RSA runner up Whisper to claim victory. I am not sure if this is a step too far though for this animal. Killultagh Vic might be Ruby Walsh‘s mount. the horse is prone to a mistake or two and he really won’t get away with many mistakes in a race like this. He was last seen in the Irish Gold cup where he was leading and came down at the last. If he can stay on his feet and jump better he could be in with a chance.

Edwulf won the Irish Gold cup beating off several rivals that could run here so has to be respected.Minella Rocco finished runner up last year. A real spring horse that likes it around Cheltenham but he would really need the ground to dry out to run as well again.

From a trading perspective I think Richard Johnson might make the running on Native Riverand try to make a bold bid from the front. The ground will suit the horse and he has been well treated this season compared to the hard runs he had before last season. The other prominent runners are Might Bite, Definitly Red and Our Duke so I would have one eye on them too if in an early trade. It really is an open race this year but one that every National Hunt fan cannot wait for.

Enjoy the festival, keep your feet on the ground with your betting and trading it is only four days in the calendar year don’t forget and there could be trading opportunities elsewhere during the week. I will be reminding HFP members to enjoy it but don’t get carried away with a wave of emotions when trading. It is there to be enjoyed but is not the be all and end all when it comes to trading and making money.

If no solid opportunities come my way I will sit back wait until they do and enjoy the action on the tv. Roll on tuesday!!!!   …..

Stay Green.