Monday 28 January 2013

The 2013 Cheltenham Festival: Get Your Bets On

With every day the 2013 Cheltenham Festival is drawing closer. The anticipation. Excitement of a waiting crowd. Trainers, owners, jockeys at the ready. Focused. Inspired. Dreams nurtured in winter months become a racing certainly. 

Past winners striving to write their names in equine history, battle-hardened campaigners primed to settle old scores, while dark horses tantalize the mind...

Of one thing we can be sure - this sport of kings will find no more loyal a servant than race fans across the country who await the pulsating action of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival. 

Let the action begin:

Day 1 (12th March)

Champion Hurdle

The highlight on the opening day. This most prestigious hurdle race in the National Hunt calendar is for horses aged four years and older. It is run on the old course over 2m 110 yard, with eight hurdles to jump. It has been won by a number of exceptional horses: Dawn Run (1984), See You Then (1985 - 87) & Istabraq (1998 - 2000). Who will win this year?

Hurricane Fly? Rock On Ruby? Binocular...

Day 2  (13th March)

Queen Mother Champion Chase 

This Grade  1 National Hunt chase over 2 miles is open to horses aged five years and older and the feature event of the second day of the Festival. Named in the year of the Queen Mother's 80th birthday (1980) it recognised her support to jump racing.

The most successful horse to have won this race is Badsworth Boy (1983 - 1985). 

But what are we to make of this year's contest?

Sprinter Sacre, trained by Nicky Henderson, is presently 2/5f after winning his last seven races. He's a true Cheltenham favourite. Can he beat stablemates Simonsig or last year's winner Finian's Rainbow? Irish raider Sizing Europe proved victorious in 2011 while others take their chance...

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Day 3 (14th March)

World Hurdle       

This Grade 1 National Hunt race is open for horses aged four years or older and run over 3 miles with twelve hurdles to jump. This is the leading long-distance hurdle event in the calendar & feature of day three at the Cheltenham Festival. It was formerly known as the Stayers' Hurdle. In previous contests this race has been about one horse - Big Bucks who won this contest on no fewer than four occasions (2009 - 2012). Unfortunately, he will not contest this year's event after suffering an injury in December. 

However, in what looks a competitive race we see a great line up. Leading hopes include Oscar Whisky, Quevega, Reve De Sivola, Monksland & Tidal Bay.

Day 4 (15th March)

Cheltenham Gold Cup    

This Grade 1 National Hunt horse race is run over 3 miles 2 1/2f with 22 fences to be jumped. A steeplechase open to horses five years or older it is the most prestigious of all National Hunt races. This Blue Riband event has a roll of honour featuring household names such as Arkle, Best Mate, Golden Miller, Kauto Star & Mill House. It is the most valuable non-handicap chase in Britain. 

The Cheltenham Gold Cup was first run in 1924 by a horse called Red Splash. In the 1930s Golden Miller won five consecutive races and still proves the most successful horse in the race's history. Other multiple winners include Cottage Rake, trained by Vincent O'Brien, from 1948- 1950. In the 1960s Arkle dominated this event over the new course to win three times. He still remains shortest-priced winner at odds of 1/10f.  

The most remarkable feat for any trainer came in 1983 when Michael Dickinson had the first five horses home. 

Dawn Run and legendary grey Desert Orchid are among my all-time favourites. 

Best Mate, trained by Henrieta Knight, was the last horse to win three consecutive races (2002 - 2004). While in recent years Kuato Star captured the heart of a nation being the only horse to regain the Gold Cup in 2009. 

What a race we have in store for this 2013 Gold Cup.

Presently, Bobs Worth heads the betting, trained by Nicky Henderson. Sir Des Champs is on a recovery mission for Willie Mullins after recently losing his unbeaten record. While Long Run tries to make this a memorable day after tasting victory in 2011. 

A truly spectacular event.

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