The Valentine’s Day cards have been packed away, the pancake mix has been thrown out and the suit has been dusted down, it can only mean one thing, the Cheltenham festival is nearly upon us.
For National Hunt enthusiasts, the 11th March is the start of four days of indulgence and amazing racing.
Last year was a record breaking year for Irish-trained horses and the feeling this year is that the Irish can beat the 14 wins they recorded last year.
Key to the Irish success, just as he was last year, will be Willie Mullins and his stable jockey Ruby Walsh.
The opening day represents a great opportunity for Mullins to get off the mark with Champagne Fever the ante post favourite for the Arkle Challenge trophy.
Challenges will come from Irish Arkle winner Trifolium, former Champion Hurdle winner Rock on Ruby and Dodging Bullets with the Emma Lavelle trained Claret Cloak one of the main outsiders.
The opening day offers punters and race goers some fantastic racing with the contest between Hurricane Fly, The New One, Our Conor and My Tent or Yours in the Champions hurdle Challenge Trophy quite possibly the race of the week.
The OBLG Mares Hurdle will see Mullins bid for history with Quevega aiming for a record breaking sixth successive win.
Day two offers more excitement with the Coral Cup up for contention. The standout race on day two features a strong field with Un Temps Pour Tout and Dunguib favourites according to the bookmakers.
Day three will see the favourite Dynaste, Paul Nicholl’s Al Ferof, Benefficient and First Lieutenant go head to head for the Ryanair Chase although with outsiders of the ilk of Avrika Ligeonniere, Module and Menorah also in contention this is a tough card to call.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup, is the highlight not only of day four but of the entire festival. The betting was turned on its head last week when the ante-post favourite Cue Card was forced to withdraw with a stress fracture.
The Colin Tizzard trained horse impressed greatly when it beat last year’s winner Bobs Worth, the new favourite for, Silviniaco Conti and Dynaste to the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November and was tipped to do well this year.
The aforementioned trio will all be confident of success this time round as too will the likes of Captain Chris, Long Run and Last Instalment.
Also on day, the National Hunt chase offers that man Mullin’s another chance of success with Ballycasey tipped to give the favourite Foxrock a real run for the money.
The Christmas and winter race schedule gave punters an idea about the ante-post favourites and leading contenders and with the festival edging closer the time for talking is almost over.
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