The Cheltenham Open Meeting is the best early season national hunt fixture and a hugely important part of the racing calendar. Ran across three days at the home of National Hunt racing, many people descend on Cheltenham to see current stars, potential stars of the future and some old favourites. The main two racing days are Saturday and Sunday and it is on these days that we will see some very big names going head to head in early season clashes.
The big race of the on Saturday is the BetVictor Gold Cup, a grade three chase over 2M4F. Kylemore Lough is the current favourite for the race, but as ever this looks to be a hugely competitive betting heat and anyone of the first five or six in the betting could realistically be sent off as race favourite. Further down the list of runners and Guitar Pete is a very interesting contender for the race. He was an exceptional hurdler and last time out he looked as though he was on the upward curve are a chaser. He bet a talented field in a well-listed handicap at Wetherby and the 7lb rise he has at the weights may not be enough to stop him. Whether or not the big field and fast-paced nature of this race will suit him remains to be seen, but at his current price, he certainly looks worth chancing.
Elsewhere, Gumball and West Approach will both likely be short prices in the opening two races of the day but both come into this weekend with big reputations and big chances. Gumball is already at the top of the Triumph Hurdle market and another win this weekend would see him shorten even further for that race in March. Minella Rocco will stay all day and despite his big weight he looks to have a very good chance of winning the 1:50 race, the first race that is on ITV. While others are struggling to get up the hill, watch out for him staying on and hopefully crossing the line in first place.
The feature race on Sunday is the Shloer Chase and in the race Fox Norton is a very warm order after winning the race 12 months ago and showing great form all last season. He was beaten at the Cheltenham festival by Special Tiara, who takes him on again but the winner of the race may come from elsewhere. Cloudy Dream is worth taking a chance on and only a mix up with the entries has made this race an option for him. He is travelling down from the north but has already shown a high level of form and is worth a go in this company. Should he go close then expect to see him competing in all the top two-mile races this winter.
The other top race on Sunday is the Greatwood Handicap where Jenkins has been all the rage in the weeks leading up to the race. He could find a lot of improvement from his current mark if his trainer has managed to solve the problems from last year and is a very interesting runner. Elsewhere at a bigger price, Nietzsche looks to have a great chance and after finishing third at the Cheltenham Festival last season he could be the type to improve again this season. One of the stars of the show on Sunday may turn out to be Dame De Compagnie, who runs in the Supreme Novice Hurdle trial. She could be special and gets a vital 7lb allowance from her rivals and is a fascinating runner to watch out for.
12:40 – Gumball
1:15 – West Approach
1:50 – Minella Rocco
2:25 – Guitar Pete
3:00 – Thomas Campbell
3:30 – Red Indian
4:00 – Posh Trish
1:15 – Another Frontier
1:50 – North Hill Harvey
2:25 – Cloudy Dream
3:00 – Nietzsche
3:30 – Dame De Compagnie
4:00 – Skidoosh
What Races are on TV?
Saturday Live on ITV – 1:50, 2:25, 3:00, 3:30
Sunday Live on ITV4 – 1:50, 2:25, 3:00, 3:30
The entire card from both days will be shown live on Racing UK for subscribers to that channel.
Prices quoted are the best available at the time of writing.
BetVictor Gold Cup – Saturday 2:25
Betting has been available for the big race for quite a while but now the final runners have been declared the market is really taking shape. Kylemore Lough is currently the 6/1 favourite for the race, with a whole host of horses in behind who may challenge for favouritism. Those include Tully East, Le Prezien, Starchitect, Ballyalton, Foxtail Hill and Romain De Senam. Guitar Pete is further down the betting and can be backed at a best price of 20/1.
BetVictor.com Handicap Chase – Saturday 1:50
In the second big handicap of the day on Saturday, Three Faces West is currently the 100/30 favourite, but just like the big one, this looks a very competitive betting heat. Three horses, Minella Rocco, Doing Fine and Premier Bond are all tied for second favourite at 5/1 and a move for either of those three would push them in with a chance of being the favourite by the time the race begins.
Listed Handicap Hurdle – Saturday 3:00
Despite looking like a very competitive handicap hurdle race, just one horse dominates the betting for the 3:00 on Saturday and that is Thomas Campbell. He is 9/4 clear favourite for the race, with the next horse in the betting being Rockys Treasure who is 5/1. Although this race is supposedly very competitive, Thomas Campbell could be a lot better than his current handicap mark suggests and that is how the betting is shaping up so far. He is the one horse that could turn this into a procession and so far he is being backed to do exactly that.
Shloer Chase – Sunday 2:25
The feature race on Sunday is the Shloer Chase and although it may have only attracted six runners, all six are quality horses in with a chance. After proving he was top class last season, including when he won this race, Fox Norton is unsurprisingly the favourite for the race and is a warm order at 5/4. Special Tiara bet Fox Norton at the Cheltenham Festival last season, and he is second in the betting at 3/1. Elsewhere, Cloudy Dream is available at 5/1 and this will be a great test for the northern raider to see how good he actually is and whether two-mile graded contests are where his future lies.
Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – Sunday 3:00
The betting for the Greatwood hurdle is dominated by one horse who could potentially be a lot better than his current handicap mark suggests and that is Jenkins. He slightly disappointed last season, he performed well enough but was mentioned as being a high-class prospect, something we didn’t see from him. The way he has been backed into 4/1 favourite for one of the most competitive handicap hurdle races of the season would suggest the yard think they have worked him out over the summer and he is going to improve. Should he improve then, of course, he has a great chance to win this off his current mark, but his price makes other horses look better value in a race like this. Mohaayed will be popular and he is second favourite at 7/1, while last weekend’s comfortable winner London Prize is 9/1 in the betting. Those looking for something at a double-figure price may look towards Nietzsche, who is currently 14/1.
Supreme Novice Hurdle Trial – Sunday 3:30
This race looks to be a great clash between two horses who have already made a very pleasing impression so far this season and whoever wins is likely to be made favourite for the Supreme Novices Hurdle in March. Dame De Compagnie represents Nicky Henderson and looks to have a huge future ahead of her, she is the evens favourite for this race mainly due to the 7lb fillies allowance she receives from her rivals. Slate House is the other horse to have really impressed this season and Colin Tizzard will be hoping he is yet another great juvenile in his yard, he is currently the 13/8 second favourite, but there is not much to choose between the top two.
Thanks to their sponsorship of the feature race on Saturday, BetVictor will be paying out on the first five places each way in the BetVictor Gold Cup, which is the 2:25 on Saturday.
Ladbrokes select four races each day to enhance the place terms of and across this weekend this offer is sure to include some races at Cheltenham on both Saturday and Sunday. Visit their website in the morning to see what races they have enhanced.
William Hill have a bonus called high five which will be in play for the televised races at Cheltenham this weekend. If you back a winner in any of the televised races with them as a single then you will receive a 15% bonus as a free bet.
Bet365 have a promotion running that covers televised racing, so look out for the eight Cheltenham races on ITV this weekend. If you back a winner with them in any of those races that is priced at 4/1 or more then you will receive a free bet for the same stake on the next televised race.