With mouths watering, spines tingling, hearts fluttering and all hopes held high it is that time of the year when the attention of both the sporting public, but more obviously the racing public turn their attentions to the one and only Cheltenham Festival.
The four day racing extravaganza gets underway on 10th March where the best part of 65,000 racing mad fans, many thousands of them from Ireland will descend on Prestbury Park, for the 26 Cheltenham Festival Races. Champions will be made and lost during the week and millions of pounds will go the same way too, with the Online Bookmakers as usual licking their lips at the potential of this bumper week for them. Credit crunch or otherwise there will be no stopping the courage of the punters who as always will take the Bookmakers on in the hope that they can find enough winners to go home happy at the end of the week.
This year in many ways is quite strange with several red hot favourites in the major races, who are extremely difficult to oppose on the form shown this season. Hottest favourite is the highest rated horse in training currently, Master Minded. He is trained by the champion trainer, Paul Nicholls and is as short as 1-3 odds on to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second successive year.
Binocular is another who has captured the imagination this season, he is the 5-4 favourite for the Champion Hurdle with the next in the betting Celestial Halo, also trained by Nicholls at 8-1.
In the World Hurdle, last year’s second, Kasbah Bliss at 13-10 is another hot favourite but there are many who claim that he will have a genuine challenger in the Nicky Henderson trained, Punchestowns, who is currently a 4-1 bet. Kasbah Bliss, who is trained by Francois Doumen in France was highly impressive last time and had Punchestowns stablemate, Duc De Regniere well behind him.
One of the most eagerly awaited races of the Festival this year is the Ryanair Chase, which features another so called certainty in Voy Por Ustedes. He is the 6-4 favourite, with Tidal Bay next best in the betting at 6-1.
Finally in the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself, it is Kauto Star, winner in 2007 who has been made the resounding favourite. He has shortened into 7-4, with stablemates, Neptune Collonges at 6-1 and last years winner, Denman at 7-1. The three, all trained by Paul Nicholls made up the first three last year, but it was Denman who won, with Kauto Star second.
Not too unsurprisingly is that Nicholls is red hot favourite to be top trainer and his stable jockey, Ruby Walsh is favourite to win the Jockeys title.
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