The 2013 Cheltenham Festival is still a number of months away but the countdown to the meeting is well and truly under way.
The bookmakers have opened the betting on a number of the Festival’s feature races and racing fans will already be looking to get stuck into the four-day extravaganza.
Cheltenham can expect to welcome over 200,000 racegoers from all over the world next March and it’s believed that more than £500 million will be gambled throughout the week. It really is the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ and we’ve already picked out our three best ante post bets for the most eagerly anticipated fixture on the racing calendar.
2013 Champion Hurdle
This 2013 Champion Hurdle looks set to be a vintage renewal of the famous race and a whole host of top class horses will be aimed at the two-mile showpiece.
Reigning champion Rock On Ruby will return to Cheltenham to defend his crown after he powered to a particularly impressive victory in the race last year and the likes of Cinders And Ashes, Darlan and Grandouet will all be looking to score at Prestbury Park.
However, Hurricane Fly will be back at Cheltenham and the Mullins team will have a score to settle after he was beaten at odds-on in the race in 2012. The Irish raider didn’t look to be himself that day and a slow gallop was one of many reasons that could have contributed to his third-place finish in the race.
Pundits were quick to question the French recruit, but the fact remains that ‘the Fly’ has won eleven Grade Ones in his last thirteen races and that ultra-talented, but equally fragile star has everything in his locker.
His jumping is near faultless and he has enough speed to keep himself in a race should he make an early mistake. His slick jumping and his ability to cruise into a challenging position before knuckling down to the task are a potent mix and he has proved that he doesn’t mind getting in a battle to the line.
Connections of the horse will be making sure that he is back to his best this season and he undoubtedly has the necessary ingredients to prove once and for all that he is the best hurdler either side of the Irish Sea.
Champion Hurdle selection – Hurricane Fly 5/1
2013 RSA Chase
The betting for the 2013 RSA Chase looks particularly wide open and with a number of horses not certain to line up in the race, it is no surprise to see that it is 6/1 the field.
David Pipe’s Dynaste heads the ante post market for the Grade One and with Fingal Bay, Champagne Fever and Sire Collonges all in the mix for a tantalising affair; it already looks a thoroughly intriguing race.
Despite the classy line-up of horses in the market, the standout selection in the betting at this stage could be Irish challenger Boston Bob who will be looking to make amends for his second in the 2012 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Willie Mullins’ Hexham bumper winner flourished after he made the move across the Irish Sea last season and three consecutive victories for his new trainer saw him assume the role as Ireland’s leading novice hurdler.
Two facile victories at Navan, including one Grade One success over the highly regarded Mount Benbulben, saw him rocket the head of betting for the Festival’s novice hurdle races and it wasn’t hard to see why he was sent off at 6/5 at Cheltenham.
Despite the strong market confidence, Ruby Walsh didn’t have his finest hour aboard the Mullins inmate that day and he was turned over into second after attracting lots of market support.
He’ll be back this year and he looks sure to excel over the larger obstacles. His jumping has looked very deliberate at times and he seems certain to relish his career as a chaser. Aside from looking a very classy individual, Boston Bob is also clearly a gutsy operator and at 8/1 he makes plenty of ante post appeal.
RSA Chase selection – Boston Bob 8/1
2013 Arkle Chase
Nicky Henderson looks set for another hugely successful National Hunt campaign in 2012/13 and his powerful yard already dictate the betting for a number of the Festival’s feature races.
One of his leading stars the season is certain to be the incredibly talented Simonsig who is already as short as 7/2 for the Arkle next March.
That is a price that will make little appeal to those going in search of value in the ante post markets, but he is an operator of extreme ability and it already looks like he could be unstoppable this season.
The speed that Simonsig possesses meant that he was under consideration for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle before he won the Neptune at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival and the strong travelling superstar was always going to be kept to two miles over fences.
Four victories in five races in 2011/12 were enough to justify his huge reputation and he looked like the best horse in the race when suffering his only defeat at the hands of Fingal Bay.
He looks built for a career over the larger obstacles and the connections of the horse clearly can’t wait to see the Grade One winner jump a fence. It is highly likely that he could dominate his division like stablemate Sprinter Sacre and it’ll be fascinating to see what route he takes before he lines up in the Arkle.
Arkle Chase selection – Simonsig 7/2
The excitement ahead of the Cheltenham Festival is already beginning to build and we can’t wait for Festival week at CheltenhamFestival.net.