How quickly time flies. It only seems like yesterday we had the Christmas horse racing with the Leopardstown Christmas Festival in Ireland, and the King George at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, and already attention has turned to this year’s Cheltenham Festival, with the showcase meeting already less than two months away.
The Festival trials day is this Saturday (24th January), and that basically starts the countdown to the main event – the festival itself – which this year starts on Tuesday 10th March, and runs until Friday 13th March, the day the Cheltenham Gold Cup race is run.
Last year’s Gold Cup winner, Lord Windermere is fourth favourite at a best price of 16/1 with some bookies, and as short as 12/1 with others, showing just how high in quality this year’s race is going to be. The favourite is Silviniaco Conti, who is generally available at 3/1.
Silviniaco Conti is a nine year old Chestnut Gelding, trained by top trainer Paul Nicholls. He won the King George VI chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day with relative ease, and in doing so, further secured his place as favourite for the Gold Cup.
Last year’s Gold Cup champion, Lord Windermere is trained by Jim Culloty, who as the man who overseen Best Mate’s three wins at the start of the century, knows a thing or two about winning this race.
Windermere is a Bay Gelding who last ran in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December, finishing a disappointing seventh with Davy Russell on board, the man who rode him to Cheltenham glory last March. When he did complete his Gold Cup victory, Windermere came in a massive price of 33/1, giving the bookies a right result on the day.
The second favourite for the Gold Cup this year is Road To Riches. An Irish horse trained by Noel Meade, Road To Riches won the above mentioned Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, comfortably beating Lord Windermere in the process.
This year’s festival promises to be just as good as any other. Twenty Eight top quality races over the course of the four days, with four show piece races (one a day).
Tuesday 10th is known as Champion Day, with the feature race, The Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy at 3.20. Wednesday 11th is Ladies Day, with the Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase (3.20), the highlight of the day.
We then have St Patrick’s Thursday on 12th March, with the World Hurdle race (also at 3.20) the main race of the day. And then on Friday 13th, the final day of the festival, culminating with the gold cup Cheltenham 2015 race at 3.20.
These days the bookmakers offer no end of free bets, money back specials and new accounts offers during the Cheltenham Festival. There was a time when free bets got withdrawn during Cheltenham, and also at Aintree a few weeks later.
These days due to the competitiveness of the industry, things are very different. The bookies have no option but to throw offers galore at us, for both new and existing customers.
During last year’s event there were stacks of price boosts, and ‘money back if your horse comes second’ offers running on all four days of the festival, it is just of glut of betting offers and Cheltenham Free Bets.