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Tuesday 8 March 2016

Countdown to Cheltenham Festival 2016 begins

As the most famous and iconic jump racing event in the UK & Irish season draws ever closer, this years Cheltenham Festival is yet again set to provide us with non stop action both on and off to circuit. With record crowds of over 250,000 expected to embark on the West Country town over the four days, and with prize money totalling over £4 million, this year’s field will be looking to battle it out in iconic races to claim their place in the history books. Despite the main highlight of the festival taking place on the final day, in the Gold Cup, there are certainly still plenty of other races to keep an eye on until then.

The main focus for many on the opening day comes in the form of the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Red hot favourite Min, along with the other riders, will open up the festival in style, with Irish trainer Willie Mullins looking to pick up where he left off from last year, and match his achievements of eight Cheltenham wins in one year. With the race a little over a week away and now that Cheltenham betting is underway at Coral, Min is backed at 11/8 and is certainly in with an excellent chance with the experienced Ruby Walsh on the saddle.

Day two starts with the ever unpredictable Neptune Novices Hurdle, with Yanworth heading the 78 strong field. With over half of the horses being trained in Ireland, and Mullins having 22 entries just by himself, it is looking likely that he could once again prove himself as Mr. Cheltenham. In fact Mullins currently has the top four favourites going into the race with Yanworth at a competitive 4/5 odds on, and Yorkhill at 6/1 second favourite.

The World Hurdle provides the highlight on day three of the festival, and despite Thistlecrack seemingly set to be in full control of his destiny, there are a few outsiders to keep an eye on should he falter under pressure. Last year’s runner up Saphir Du Rheu is certainly in contention and with odds of 10/1 from Coral, trainer Paul Nicholls is confident of a strong performance on the better ground at Cheltenham.

So to the last day of the much renowned festival, and if you are still looking for horses to back, perhaps the Gold Cup is a fitting manner in which to end things. With the field still not confirmed for this most famous of races, much will depend on who trainers ultimately choose to take to the circuit. Jockey Bryan Cooper may well have a big say in proceedings as he makes a decision between race favourites Don Cossack and Don Poli. Another of Willie Mullins’ horses Vautour is currently joint favourite at 4/1 with Coral. For those of you looking for an outsider to back, Many Clouds at 33/1 is definitely worth a flutter each way. Likely to run the Gold Cup in preparation for defending his Grand National title, the horse comes into the race in good form.


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