London – For the first time in nearly two decades, the going at the Cheltenham Festival “may well be heavy in places”, said Simon Claisse, the track’s clerk of the course, as it rained over the weekend.
In recent years, good-to-soft ground has been one of the few certainties on the first day of the world’s premier jump racing meeting and Claisse has often needed to water the course to stop it drying out.
Predominantly soft ground at the start of Tuesday’s card is now an odds-on chance with bookmakers, while heavy going is as short as 4-1 and good ground a 200-1 chance. The four-day festival finally gets under way after weeks of excited build-up in the British racing press.
Officially billed as Champion Day, the opening day is packed with top quality racing and starts with a real bang as the best young hurdlers around clash in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The Racing Post Arkle crowns the champion 3200m novice chaser but the headline Day 1 act is the Unibet Champion Hurdle, won 12 months ago in fantastic style by the Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air, who returns to defend his crown this year.
Ladies Day consists of a brilliant blend of speed and stamina, with the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase one of the most exhilarating races of the entire week as the finest 3200m horses wing it around Prestbury Park’s demanding chase course.
The RSA Chase is a severe examination for burgeoning staying talents and few could forget Might Bite’s dramatic success over stablemate Whisper in last year’s renewal.
The St Patrick’s Day Thursday crowd has every reason to celebrate with a couple of cracking contests: the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase.
The JLT Novices’ Chase also carries top-class status while the Pertemps Network Final provides a puzzle for punters to solve as a huge field scrap for honours over 4800m.
Gold Cup Day needs little introduction.
One of the most sought-after titles in racing is decided on the final day of the festival and always promises to provide the greatest spectacle.
The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup is a race associated with the elite of the sport and nothing can rival the Cheltenham roar as the horses charge up the famous hill.
The JCB Triumph Hurdle and Albert Bartlett also crown top-class talents while The 28th and final race of the meeting sees handicappers vie for glory in the Grand Annual. – Racingpost.com