Equine flu may be wreaking havoc in the UK by closing down all racing for a period of
time in February, but with a month to go until arguably the greatest four days of racing
action, the general consensus is that all will be well.
2001 was the last time the Cheltenham festival was canceled after falling into a foot
and mouth exclusion zone but in 2019, another cancellation seems highly unlikely with
authorities quick to react to the flu detected in British racing at the beginning of the
However, that is unlikely to affect the immediate future of the festival, so who are the
early runners and riders and favourites for the big races in the ante-post betting?
The Gold Cup
Let’s start at the very top, shall we with the most iconic of all races.
It is not hard to see why either with ten wins from the eight-year-olds eighteen races
In fact, Presenting Percy has been so impressive over the last 24 months you have to
go back to the 26th April 2017 for the last time he failed to finish in the top three.
Last year’s winner Native River is a close second in the ante-post betting at 5/1 and will
prove a popular choice after leading the way for the entire race twelve months ago
while Kemboy comes in as the third favourite at 7/1 in what promises to be yet
another thrilling Gold Cup.
Betway Champion Chase
The Champion Chase is another of many high-profile races on the Cheltenham Festival
card and was first run in 1959 with Quita Que coming across the line first.
Twelve months ago, it was Altior trained by Nicky Henderson who took victory over the
one-mile seven-furlong race.
With eighteen wins from twenty starts, it is of little surprise to see Altior once again
the short price favourite at 2/5.
The nine-year-old bay gelding owned by Mrs. Patricia Pugh has won every race it has
entered since October 2015 and continues to be one of the finest horses ever to have
raced on these shores.
It will be tough for the remainder of the field, but the French entry Min will aim to
cause an upset at 9/2 and end Altior’s reign at the top.
The eight-year-old has the capabilities as a win at Leopardstown at the beginning of
February over seventeen furlongs can testify making for an exciting contest.
Footpad rounds out the top three at 6/1 but will need something to happen to the top
two in order to be in contention.
Raced over two miles, the Champion Hurdle forms the third and final race of the iconic
Triple Crown of Hurdling only adding to the prestige of the race.
As an element of stamina is required, it was no surprise to see the French horse
Buveur d’Air sweep to victory in 2018 for the second straight year.
However, heading into 2019, there is a new(ish) name in town as fellow French runner
Apples Jade heads the betting at 13/8.
Owned by the Gigginstown House Stud, Apples Jade heads to Cheltenham on a serious
run of form boasting thirteen wins in the seven-year-olds nineteen races to date
including the last four race wins in a row.
However, Buveur d’Air is far from a slouch with fourteen wins from eighteen races.
The defending champion comes in at 7/4 which may prove a worthwhile ante-post bet
after an impressive win at Sandown earlier in the month.
Of the entire race card at Cheltenham, the battle between French rivals Apples Jade
and Buveur D’Air looks set to be one of the stories of the festival and one not to be
Ready for Take Off
The action fast approaching and despite the issues surrounding the Cheltenham
Festival, it looks set to go off with no problems.
A sigh of relief will no doubt be breathed by the course, bookies, punters, race fans,
caterers once the equine flu has cleared as arguably the greatest four-days of racing
action is set to mark the beginning of spring for yet another year.