The Cheltenham Festival: St Patricks Day

the cheltenham festival hacked up racing

JLT Novices Chase

The JLT is one of the most intriguing races throughout the entire festival from a betting perspective. 

The Grade 1 chase over a distance of 2m 4 furlongs is the meeting point of horses who won’t be either stepping up to the RSA Chase or stepping down in trip for the Arkle Chase. 

This is evaluated in the betting markets usually with the market leaders all being very closely matched in each one. For example Death Duty - 7/1 for this race, or 12/1 for the RSA Chase. Trainers will tend to make decisions on whether or not a horse will go here right at the last minute so it can be incredibly difficult to judge beforehand. With many of the favourites in the market possibly going elsewhere, it might pay to look a little deeper in the market and keep an eye on trainer comments throughout the coming months.

Willie Mullins has won the last three renewals of the race with the SP fav at very short odds. However it may pay to side with the Irish handler, as Mullins has landed this four times already, with the race only being introduced in 2011.

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The Ryanair Chase

The Ryanair Chase is a Grade 1 race ran over 2m 5 furlongs, and is run over the new course at Cheltenham. It is open to horses aged 5 and up and is seen as an alternative to the Gold Cup and the line up attracts the quality you would expect.

Since its introduction in 2005 ten of the twelve winners have come from the top three in the betting, and it could pay to keep attention on this in the weeks leading up to the festival. Only two winners of this race have gone off bigger than 6/1!

Last years winner Un De Sceaux currently sits at the head of the market at 11/2, and put in an excellent show at Cork recently winning by 25 lengths. Although that was on heavy ground, he acts on good ground also and this is shown with him winning at Cheltenham in the 2015 Arkle on good ground, followed by filling the runner up spot in the 2016 Champion Chase behind Sprinter Sacre. He seems a worthy enough favourite on what we have seen so far his season.

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Stayers Hurdle

This Grade 1 ran over 3 miles on the new course, has in recent years become one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the festival. It is open to horses aged 4 and up, and there are twelve hurdles to be jumped in total. 

Paul Nicholls has had the most success in the race with four wins and three places, all four of those wins coming from the legendary Big Bucks under the ride of Ruby Walsh. In the last ten years Nicky Henderson has not managed to land a blow big enough to come away with the spoils, with Willie Mullins only winning this once with Nichols Canyon winning last year at 10/1 and heads the betting at 7/1 to retain the title this season. Joint market leader is Unowhatimeanharry for Harry Fry, who was beaten 3 ½ lengths into third behind the former last season. Since that race Unowhatimeanharry has won twice and finished in the places twice and the former Albert Bartlett winner looks likely to be bang there at the finish again this term.

Favourites tend to do very well in the race, with six of the last ten renewals being won by the fav. So keep an eye on the market in the finals days if that will help you making a decision.

Mares Novice Hurdle

A new addition to the festival in 2015, this race is open to only mares and fillies ran over 2m 1 furlong on the new course.

Although the race is a Grade 2, it will be highly popular in years to come. Since its conception Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have won it both times with Limini and Let’s Dance.

This season see’s Apples Shakira head the market at 6/1, after arriving over from France she has put in an excellent display and thrashed the highly touted Gumball at Cheltenham by 17 lengths, having no problems with the track. There is a slight concern about the ground though, as she has only ever raced on soft, whether the ground is key or not remains to be seen but I imagine we’ll see her race on good ground before the spring and will have more of an idea thereafter. 

Salsaretta is next in the betting at 8/1, yet another French recruit. She transferred from Francois Nicholle to Willie Mullins in November and looks sure to be popular in the market given the Closutton handler’s record in the race thus far. Her ability remains to be seen this side of the water as she has only raced in France thus far, with form figures of 392, again only raced on soft.