There will be lots written about the 2018 Cheltenham Festival (13th-16th March) between now and the time that the spectacular horse racing event kicks off. However, much of the focus goes on the ‘Big 4’ races – Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers Hurdle and Gold Cup.
This article wants to stay away from those feature races and instead take a look at some other highlights of the Festival. It will take a look at one race for each day of Cheltenham 2018, highlighting some of the previous winners, current odds and predictions.
Day 1 – OLBG Mares’ Hurdle:
This race has been made famous for two main reasons – Quevega winning six in a row from 2009-2014 and Annie Power’s bet-busting fall in 2015. It is a Grade 1 race, featuring the best female hurdlers in the business. It sometimes goes under the radar though, with so many other top races on Champion Day. Last year’s winner, Apple’s Jade is favourite to take the crown once again in 2018. Gordon Elliott’s horse is a class act, winning all four of her races since that victory. She may be the biggest ‘lock’ of the Festival.
Mares’ Hurdle Tip: Apple’s Jade 5/6 (William Hill).
Day 2 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle:
Another Grade 1 race, which used to be known as the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. It has been won in the past by stars like Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Faugheen. This is always a brilliant race, with last season’s close finish between Willoughby Court and Neon Wolf a particular highlight. This year, Samcro leads the early odds at 6/4, but savvy punters may see some value in Getabird at 14/1.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Tip: Getabird 14/1 (William Hill).
Day 3 – Ryanair Chase:
This brilliant Grade 1 race has down the years belonged not to a horse, but a jockey – Ruby Walsh. The brilliant Irishman has won the race four times on different horses, including the last two on Vautour (2016) and Un De Sceaux (2017). Punters will be hoping that Walsh does indeed make the Festival after breaking his leg in November. It looks likely that he will be back though, hopefully teaming up with Un De Sceaux once again.
Ryanair Chase Tip: Un De Sceaux 4/1 (William Hill).
Day 4 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle:
Also known as the Spa Novices’ Hurdle, this is another one that is always a cracking race. It has been won in the past by the highly popular Bob’s Worth (2011). This year it looks like being one of the most keenly contested races at Cheltenham, so much so that the bookmakers are all over the place with their ante-post prices. For example, Next Destination is available at a price of 4/1 with Sky Bet and StanJames, but as high as 8/1 with Betfair. His main opposition seems to be Cracking Smart, who is widely available around 6/1. Crucially though, Next Destination has beaten Cracking Smart in his last two outings and the value lies with Willie Mullins’ horse.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Tip: Next Destination 8/1 (Betfair).