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Wednesday 4 February 2015

Your Guide to the 2015 Cheltenham Festival Ante-Post Betting

With every day the 2015 Cheltenham Festival is drawing closer. The anticipation of a wanting crowd. 

Previous winners strive to write their names in equine history, while battle-hardened campaigners are primed to settle old scores. 

Dark horses tantalize with what might be... 

One thing we can be sure - the sport of kings will find no more loyal a servant than race fans who await the pulsating action of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival at Prestbury Park. 

This is an ideal time to take a look at the Cheltenham Betting. Here is a quick summary of the best of the Cheltenham Festival big races: 

Day 1 (10th March) Champion Day - Champion Hurdle.

The highlight on the opening day. This most prestigious hurdle race in the National Hunt calendar is for horses aged four years and older. It is run on the old course over 2m 110 yard, with eight hurdles to jump. In 2014 it was won by Jessica Harrington's Jezki, ridden by Barry Geraghty for big-time gambler J P McManus at odds of 9/1. Historically, a number of exceptional horses have won this contest icluding Dawn Run (1984), See You Then (1985 - 87) & Istabraq (1998 - 2000). Who will win this year? Hurricane Fly? Rock On Ruby? Binocular. This year's betting: 5/4 Faugheen (pictured), 3/1 The New One, 6/1 Jezki, 8/1 Hurricane Fly, 16/1 Bar.    

Day 2 (11th March) Ladies' Day - Queen Mother Champion Chase. 

This Grade 1 National Hunt chase over 2 miles is open to horses aged five years and older and the feature event of the second day of the Festival. Named in the year of the Queen Mother's 80th birthday (1980) it recognised her support to jump racing. 

The most successful horse to have won this race is Badsworth Boy (1983 - 1985). But what are we to make of this year's contest? Sprinter Sacre, trained by Nicky Henderson, is presently 11/4f after struggling to find his form after pulling-up with a heart problem and most likely needing the run when runner-up at Ascot. He's a true Cheltenham favourite but this could be the greatest test of his career. Can he will this year? Betting: 11/4 Sprinter Sacre, 3/1 Un Des Sceaux (with run), 9/2 Sire De Grugy, 9/2 Dodging Bullets, 8/1 Champagne Fever, 12/1 Bar.

Day 3 (12th March) St Patrick's Day - World Hurdle 

This Grade 1 National Hunt race is open for horses aged four years or older and run over 3 miles with twelve hurdles to jump. This is the leading long-distance hurdle event in the calendar & feature of day three at the Cheltenham Festival. It was formerly known as the Stayers' Hurdle. In previous contests this race has been about one horse - Big Bucks who won this contest on no fewer than four occasions (2009 - 2012). Unfortunately, he will not contest this year's event but owner Andy Stewart will be hoping Saphir Du Rheu can show his class. This grey gelding is presently second favourite bookmakers. Betting: 4/1 More Of That, 7/1 Saphir Du Rheu, 9/1 Zarkandar, 10/1 Rock On Ruby, 12/1 Bar. 

Day 4 (13th March) Gold Cup Day - Cheltenham Gold Cup

This Grade 1 National Hunt horse race is run over 3 miles 2 1/2f with 22 fences to be jumped. It's a steeplechase open to horses five years or older. It is the most prestigious of all National Hunt races. This Blue Riband event has a roll of honour featuring household names: Arkle, Best Mate, Golden Miller, Kauto Star & Mill House. It is the most valuable non-handicap chase in Britain. 

The Cheltenham Gold Cup was first run in 1924 by a horse called Red Splash. In the 1930s Golden Miller won five consecutive races and still proves the most successful horse in the race's history. Other multiple winners include Cottage Rake, trained by Vincent O'Brien, from 1948- 1950. In the 1960s Arkle dominated this event over the new course to win three times. He still remains shortest-priced winner at odds of 1/10f. 

The most remarkable feat of any trainer came in 1983 when Michael Dickinson fielded the first five horses home. 

Dawn Run and legendary grey Desert Orchid are among all-time favourites. Best Mate, trained by Henrieta Knight, was the last horse to win three consecutive races (2002 - 2004). While in recent years Kuato Star captured the heart of a nation being the only horse to regain the Gold Cup in 2009. 

What a race we have in store for this 2015 Gold Cup. Presently, Silviniaco Conti, trained by Paul Nicholls, is clear favourite to win after many peoples idea of an unlucky loser last year. Road To Riches & Many Clouds look worthy second and third favourites, respectively. Could last year's 20/1 shock winner, Lord Windermere, take the spoils? Betting: 10/3 Silviniaco Conti, 9/1 Road To Riches, 10/1 Many Clouds, 14/1 Lord Windermere, 16/1 Bar. 

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