We are just weeks away from the start of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, the biggest meeting in National Hunt racing by some distance. There are 28 races scheduled across four days this year, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup the feature contest. Here are some of the horses and races to look out for at Prestbury Park next month.
Altior Puts Unbeaten Record On The Line In Champion Chase
After three successful outings so far season, Altior is now unbeaten in 12 races over fences as his domination of the 2m chase division continues. Nicky Henderson’s stablestar will look to retain his crown in the Queen Mother Champion Chase where he is the odds-on favourite at 2/5.
The challengers to Altior include recent Grade One Dublin Chase winner Min, Footpad and Un de Sceaux but it would be a huge upset if the nine-year-old did not win his fourth straight race at the Festival this year.
Buveur D’Air Bids For Hat-Trick In Champion Hurdle
Another horse who has been so successful in his respective division at the Festival is Buveur D’Air who is on the verge of a hat-trick of Champion Hurdle victories. The 2017 and 2018 winner of the 2m contest, which is the feature race on day one of the meeting, has tasted defeat this season, though, as he was second behind Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
Henderson’s hurdler started his campaign in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle which he won for a third time in a field which included Samcro and Summerville Boy. Those two novices both went into the race with big reputations, however, the defending champion was a comfortable winner as proved his class with a seven-length success.
Buveur D’Air bounced back from his Kempton defeat to claim the Contenders Hurdle on his latest start. He is as big as 2/1 in the Champion Hurdle betting and victory once again in the race would help cement his name alongside some of the greats of the sport which have won this contest three times.
Presenting Percy Takes On Older Horses In Gold Cup
Presenting Percy goes into the Cheltenham Gold Cup at a top price of 7/2 with the bookmakers listed by Oddschecker for the 3m2f contest on the final day of the meeting, despite only having the one run so far this season.
Patrick Kelly’s chaser ended the 2017/18 campaign as the leading novice chaser in the UK and Ireland. The Irish horse was an impressive winner of the RSA Chase which immediately put him in the frame for the 2019 Gold Cup.
With just the five runs under his belt over fences, Presenting Percy will be one of the least experienced horses in the field this year. He will be taking on last year’s winner Native River, former King George VI Chase winner Might Bite and Road To Respect. Although those runners have been there before, none of them have really stood out this season, therefore, the opportunity may be there for Presenting Percy to seize on the biggest stage of them all.
Stayers’ Hurdle The Target For Impressive Paisley Park
The star performer in the 3m hurdle division this season has been Paisley Park, who has just got better with every run. The seven-year-old has appeared four times in the campaign and he has done enough in those appearances to earn the spot as the 2/1 favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Emma Lavelle’s horse stood out after claiming the Grade One JLT Hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas where he finished ahead of West Approach and Top Notch respectively. He then featured at Cheltenham in what was arguably an even better performance in the Cleeve Hurdle as his margin of victory was 12 lengths on that occasion.
The Stayers’ Hurdle is an interesting race this year as it features a former Champion Hurdle winner in Faugheen, Unowhatimeanharry, who has had so much success in the division over the last couple of seasons, and last year’s winner Penhill, who is going straight into the race again without a preparation run.
If Paisley Park repeats what he has shown this season, he will be difficult to beat, however, we have seen a number of surprises in this race before so it is sure to make for fascinating viewing.
Look out for the final declarations for all 28 races 48 hours prior to each day’s action, especially if the horse you are looking to back has multiple entries across the week.