Open Betting Heats Plentiful in a Cheltenham 2019 Full of Opportunity

Open Betting Heats Plentiful in a Cheltenham 2019 Full of Opportunity

The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest meeting of the National Hunt season. In total there are 14 Grade 1 races spread out over the four days of racing but not all Grade 1s are created equal.

The four championship races each ask something different of the competitors and are the most prestigious contests at Cheltenham. There are also some extremely interesting betting opportunities for punters to get their teeth stuck into. Now is a great time to have a look at the best options in the betting to snap up some of the tempting early value offered by the bookies.

Arkle Challenge Trophy, Tuesday 2:10

The Arkle Challenge Trophy is usually one of the most exciting and competitive races of the Cheltenham Festival and this year’s renewal could be one of the very best. There are three excellent horses in the top of the betting - Lalor, Dynamite Dollars and Kalashnikov - each of whom have done some brilliant work this season and could well produce their best performance at Cheltenham.

You can easily make a case for either of those three in the 2 mile Arkle but it’s Dynamite Dollars who looks the best value at best betting odds of 7/1 with Ladbrokes. He confirmed his class with a front running win at Doncaster in January and 7/1 is just about big enough for an each way play.

Champion Hurdle, Tuesday 3:30

The Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdle race of the year. Winning this 2m½f race always takes a top class performance but it is the mark of the very best hurdlers to win multiple Champion Hurdles. That is exactly what Buveur d’Air achieved in 2018 and he is the favourite to claim a hat-trick even though his price has increased since his attempts to win a consecutive Triple Crown were ended in the Christmas Hurdle.

There is no question that Buveur d’Air was some way below his best at Kempton but there is a chance that the market has over-corrected. Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old is still very much in his prime and having proven his class multiple times he’s surely too big at odds of 13/8 on our odds comparison with Paddy Power.

Henderson was still a happy man at Kempton as he is also the trainer of Verdana Blue, however, he’s already suggested that it is unlikely the six-year-old will compete in the Champion Hurdle unless there is a serious amount of rain at Cheltenham. Willie Mullins’ three high class options could be the biggest threat to Buveur d’Air but he loves racing at Cheltenham and is the worthiest of favourites.

RSA Chase, Wednesday 2:10

The RSA Chase has been a vital stepping stone in the careers of several top class chasers. There may well be a number of stars of the future who still have entries for the 2019 renewal, including Nicky Henderson’s Santini who sits alone at the top of the betting of this 3m½f novices chase.

He’s a previous winner at Cheltenham and big things are expected but Santini was beaten by both Topofthegame (8/1 with Coral) and La Bague Au Roi (12/1 with Paddy Power) at Kempton on Boxing Day. Those two may capitalise with question marks about the favourite but the most likely to pounce is Delta Work. This 6/1 shot with Paddy Power had a flawless record in the early winter months. Delta Work’s pace has so far been able to get him out of any trouble that jumping mistakes have put him in and with more schooling over fences he could be a real star.

Queen Mother Champion Chase, Wednesday 3:30

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the leading minimum distance steeplechase of the year and one of the true Cheltenham highlights. Winning this race takes an incredible combination of speed and jumping ability as a mistake at any of the 12 fences could end a horse’s hopes of winning.

Some of the best rated horses of the last few years have won Tuesday’s championship race including Sprinter Sacre and Master Minded. Last year’s winner, Altior, is very much amongst that number and whilst some racing fans are desperate to see Nicky Henderson’s charge go up against other competitors over longer trips, there is no sign of the plan changing in the short term.

The market has taken note of Altior’s quality for some time now and it’s little surprise to see him trading at around the 1/2 mark after three straight wins this season. If you’re not happy backing Altior at that sort of price there are some tempting each way options in the betting. Footpad (best betting odds of 7/1 with bet365) is the leading challenger but better value is available on Un De Sceaux (12/1 with Coral) and Fox Norton (25/1 with BetVictor).

Stayers’ Hurdle, Thursday 3:30

The Stayers’ Hurdle is one of the most interesting betting heats of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. It contains a combination of specialist long distance hurdlers, horses who may be switched back to smaller obstacles and older horses who have something to prove.

It’s Paisley Park who sits atop the betting at 9/4 with Coral. Emma Lavelle was understandably disappointed that her charge was unable to challenge the leaders in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival but she’s been incredibly happy with the progression that the seven-year-old has made this season. He backed up his maiden Grade 1 win with a Grade 2 win at Cheltenham over the same 3 mile trip as the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Paisley Park is far from the only horse winning support in the betting. The ever popular Supasundae has shown that he retains all of his battling spirit this season and can never be counted out even in races of this calibre. Whilst Supasundae has nothing to prove, Faugheen very much does having made a mess of the second last hurdle at the Christmas Hurdle when he had just moved into contention. Nevertheless he’ll get a lot of support in the betting because he is top class when he gets it right but can he get it right in the Stayers’ Hurdle?

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, Friday 2:50

It’s fitting that the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is one of the warm up races of the Gold Cup as it’s the sort of race that could well provide several Gold Cup challengers in the future. Indeed, Bobs Worth went on to win the Gold Cup two years after this 3 mile hurdle for novices.

That win helped to boost the profile of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle but the relatively new contest was a hit as soon as it was introduced in 2005. Plenty of high class novices are in with a chance of adding their own name to the race’s history including Dan Skelton’s Beakstown.

After seeing his six-year-old win a Grade 2 at Warwick, Skelton suggested that we won’t see the best of Beakstown until he goes chasing. He also said that connections are not yet sure if he will compete at Cheltenham but it would be a surprise if they turned down the clear opportunity in front of them, especially as Beakstown can be backed at big horse racing odds of 14/1 with bet365.

Cheltenham Gold Cup, Friday 3:30

In theory the Cheltenham Gold Cup should be the race that defines the very best horse in National Hunt racing. Some of the greatest horses in history have won this world famous trophy across some classic renewals but few of the runnings have seen such an open betting heat as their year’s Gold Cup.

Up to just a few short months before the start of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival there were several horses in with a real chance of winning the Gold Cup. That remains the case but we do at least now have a clear favourite in the shape of Presenting Percy (3/1 with bet365).

Patrick Kelly’s eight-year-old made a belated first appearance of the season at Gowan towards the end of January but his performance was every bit as classy as even his most ardent fans could have hoped. Presenting Percy is an excellent jumper, he has bags of stamina and wastes no time getting up to speed when asked to by his jockey.

This will obviously be the biggest challenge of Presenting Percy’s career to date. Native River did well when finishing second behind Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase whilst Kempton never suited him in the King George VI Chase so he should be back to his best at Cheltenham.

Clan Des Obeaux is another high class option but it’s the horse who finished just behind him in the King George, Thistlecrack, who is most exciting racing fans. The majority of punters will be put off backing him at odds of 14/1 with Coral but many will put their heart above their head and hope that the popular 11-year-old can stay at his best and be in contention coming up the Cheltenham hill in the Gold Cup.