Above: Photo by TPH Intern Erica O’Neil
The Cheltenham Festival might be one of the most famous race meetings on the calendar, but there is no doubt that it means different things to different people. Mention it to a betting fanatic and they will think of the Gold Cup, second only to the Grand National in kudos. To the more casual racegoer, it is all about the impromptu fashion show that is Ladies Day, with completely inappropriate summer dresses being shown off in what are often freezing temperatures.
However, beyond these things, the Cheltenham Festival is 28 top quality horse races, one after another. While the showcase races like the Gold Cup and the Champions Hurdle attract all the media attention, it would be a mistake to overlook some of the other events that take place over these four magical days in the western part of England.
Place your bets for the Novices Hurdle
The first race of the first day is a case in point. Miss it at your peril, as the Supreme Novices Hurdle sums up everything that is great about Cheltenham. The roar of the crowd as the first race is finally underway can be heard from miles away, and with 40 or so runners, anything can happen. This makes picking a winner tricky, but long running horse race tipsters Racing Bets have their eyes firmly fixed on Getabird. They will be offering free racing tips throughout the festival, and feel that Willie Mullins’ six year old has the speed, and more importantly the temperament, to ignore the distractions and beat the rest. But this is one race in which he will also need some luck.
Remember a great at the Arkle
The second race could not be more different from the first, and is also worth a mention. Arkle was a legend who won the Gold Cup three years running in the 1960s. His name is still uttered in revered tones, and the race that bears his name is one for the purists. This year, those offering the best racing tips see another from the Mullins stable, Footpad, as the horse to beat. The bookmakers agree, and have the six year old as odds on favorite.
Samcro has work to do on Ladies Day
On to Wednesday, and there is another odds-on favorite in the first race of the day, the Ballymore Novices Hurdle. Samcro has at last been confirmed as a runner, and the bookmakers have the horse at 4/5 on. Given that he has won every one of his seven races to date, that’s understandable, but trainer Gordon Elliot is taking nothing for granted. He says Cheltenham will be a major step up for the talented six year old, and told UK newspaper the Guardian that Samcro needs to keep improving. He also added that Samcro “loves it when the sun comes out,” so given the recent whiteout across the UK, he will be hoping that spring arrives in time for the festival.
Can Cue Card win one more for his fans?
Horse fanatics can be a sentimental bunch, even in the seemingly hard-nosed world of racing, and there is one winner that everyone wants to see. Cue Card is a legend of the track, and at 11 years old, you would expect him to be out to pasture enjoying his retirement. However, trainer Colin Tizzard feels sure that the crowd favorite still has another big win left in him, and we will get a chance to see him in action on the third day if the festival in the Ryanair Chase. Does he have a chance? The bookmakers certainly think so, and plenty of punters are backing the veteran of the track.