With four of the best day’s racing ahead of us, the team at gg.co.uk take a look at the Championship races at The Festival™, presented by Magners.
The first Championship race of the week could well be the most exciting. In one corner you have the horse who has won the last two renewals of the race and victorious in twelve out of his last thirteen races; the mighty Buveur D’Air.
Despite an incredible amount of victories, Nicky Henderson’s champion hurdler has never faced a Unibet Champion Hurdle field that matches the quality of this year’s renewal and will have a huge battle on against the ‘super-mares’; Apple’s Jade and Laurina.
The latter is the unknown quantity with just wins over the fairer sex, but certainly has the X factor with the style of her successes. Apple’s Jade on the other hand has been the horse of the season with her latest demolition job in the Irish Champion Hurdle, the best hurdling performance by any contender.
With the seven-pound weight allowance she goes into the race as the one to beat and definitely GG’s favourite tip for the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
As much as the first Championship race could be the most exciting, the second is perhaps the least interesting, especially for the betting public with Altior the heavy odds-on favourite to win the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. It’s impossible to see past him in the two-mile chase and he can record an incredible eighteenth-straight win.
The Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle is also dominated by a hot favourite in the shape of Paisley Park who will take plenty of beating on Thursday, but GG’s Cheltenham tips are backing Faugheen to bring the house down on Thursday. It’s been four years since Willie Mullins’ superstar hurdler won the Champion Hurdle, but there’s been promise in recent starts that he can make his way back into the Cheltenham winners enclosure.
Victory at Punchestown over last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner Penhill is a key piece of form to look at heading into this race and if he repeats that, he will have a big chance of lowering Paisley Park’s colours. There was sufficient promise in his most recent defeat, when falling behind Apples Jade (form that looks even stronger now) to suggest that the ‘old boy’ can roll back the years and win the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.
Moving on to the Blue Riband; Friday’s Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup and we’re surely going to have an incredible race on our hands here. Last year’s Gold Cup one-two Native River and Might Bite have failed to fire throughout the 2018-19 Jump season and it looks like time for a new breed of classy staying chasers to come to the fore. Step forward Presenting Percy and Clan Des Obeaux.
Paul Nicholls knows what it takes to win the Gold Cup and 32Red King George winner Clan Des Obeaux looks to have all the attributes to give Nicholls another great chance of glory, but he’s taken to come up just shy to Pat Kelly’s Presenting Percy.
‘Percy’ has won at both the last two Cheltenham Festivals despite unorthodox campaigning and he’s been trained by his target trainer to peak for the big one in March. It’s hard to get away from the impression he made in last year’s RSA Chase where he destroyed a field which included likely Ryanair Chase winner Monalee and the test of a Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup appears to be right up his street.