The 2015/16 jumps season is nearing a close which can only mean one thing, the road to Cheltenham is not far away. Those who count down the days to the start of the flat season don’t have long to wait either, with the Lincoln and first of the English Classics all in sight in an exciting part of the year in horse racing.
The Festival is the biggest week of the year in jumps racing and here are some of the best bets for the 2016 meeting.
Cue Card – Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Cheltenham Gold Cup this year could be one of the best in a long time with a number of novice chasers taking their chances against the more experienced horses.
One of the runners with a wealth of experience at this level and in this division is Cue Card. Colin Tizzard’s runner won the biggest race of his career on Boxing Day when he got the better of Vautour by a head at Kempton in the King George. The victory brought up his third win of the season as he has also scored in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby among others.
The now 10-year-old has proven his stamina over the 3m trip and showed a fluent round of jumping on all three of his starts this season. Cue Card is definitely worth a bet on the Gold Cup with Paddy Power where he is 13-2 to win the race for the first time.
Annie Power – Champion Hurdle
The whole complexion of the Champion Hurdle was shaken up when Faugheen was ruled out of the opportunity to defend his crown in the race through injury. Trainer Willie Mullins has therefore had to shuffle his pack and it is thought that he will supplement Annie Power for the premier 2m hurdle contest this season rather than run her in the Mares’ Hurdle or the World Hurdle.
Barring a last hurdle blunder in 2015, Annie Power would have won the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival by a large distance. She made up for that error by winning at the Punchestown Festival in May, while more recently she also scored in Ireland in her preparation run for Cheltenham.
This year’s Champion Hurdle looks much weaker without Faugheen in the field so Mullins clearly thinks his runner can become only the fourth mare in history to win the race where she is 2-1 to do so.
Outlander - JLT Novices Chase
Mullins has the strongest stable he has ever brought over to the UK for the Festival this year. One of the horses which isn’t quite getting as much attention as his recognised superstars is Outlander who is set to run in the JLT Novices Chase where he is 5-1 to win the race.
The eight-year-old has had a faultless campaign with three wins from three in his opening campaign over fences. His latest success was in a Grade One contest at Leopardstown where he finished ahead of Monksland and Pont Alexandre. He looks good enough to add to Mullins’ tally at the Festival this year.