We’re just a short time from Cheltenham and excitement is building up. Jockeys and horses are raring to go, and the odds for the top favourites are closer than you think. It’ll be a blast to see the field of runners take the track, with some legends aiming to score multiple wins in the Gold Cup.
And it’s not just the Gold Cup. Cheltenham has other races where iconic runners will appear, being the premier racing event in the first trimester of the year. But, the Gold Cup always generates the most attention, run on Friday during the four-day festival. The race has a prize purse that’s worth over half a million pounds and can definitely change the lives of runners, owners, trainers, and jockeys.
What Happened Last Year?
After a season without spectators, the Cheltenham festival returned to full strength in March 2022. A Plus Tard won the Gold Cup ridden by Rachael Blackmore. In the process, she became the first female jockey to win the event. It was a thrilling clash between A Plus Tard and Minella Indo, who jumped the final fence together.
A Plus Tard will be running the Gold Cup once again this year. Not surprisingly, he’s among the ante-post favorites. Bookies have had early Cheltenham lines for a while now, with plenty of Cheltenham offers to pick from as well. Seeing as the event takes place soon, it’s time to pick yours and benefit from enhanced odds or a decent free bet.
Last year, there were 11 runners on the start line. This year, a total of 23 horses have been announced on the long list of entries. Of course, not all of them will run the Gold Cup. The number will be cut back in half, so we expect about the same runners as last year. It’s a similar situation at the other races during the four-day festival where other races attract major attention too.
Without focusing on the Gold Cup, we’ll share the biggest names to look out for in the 2023 edition of the four-day festival.
A Plus Tard Cheltenham Festival 2023
Last year’s winner will be back in the running this year. Once again ridden by Rachael Blackmore, of course. The relationship between the runner and jockey is amazing, and that will be a massive plus for the champion runner. So far, bookies have placed A Plus Tard as one of the top three horses to win the race with 15/2 odds that puts him in front of other big names such as Shishkin, Ahoy Senor, Protectorate, and Noble Yeats.
Surprisingly to some, A Plus Tard is a whiff behind Bravemansgame on the second-favorite spot and Galopin Des Champs. The latter is the major favourite for this year’s Gold Cup, although experts put A Plus Tard’s experience as the deciding factor. At 15/2, the reigning champ will be a great pick for most bettors.
Those who prefer to bet on anything else than the Gold Cup should take a look at Constitution Hill for the Champion Hurdle. With favourite odds of 2/7, the six-year old is expected to blow the competition out. So far this season, the horse has managed to win all five rules races, and is a name to behold based on performance.
Another factor that makes him a favourite for the Hurdle is the fact that it’s trained by Nicky Henderson. As one of the most successful trainers of all time, Henderson has seen his stables score many iconic wins. Some of his horses have won various Cheltenham races too, and Constitution Hill may be the latest in a long line.
At 7/4, bookies have chosen Energumene as the favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It surprises no one really, considering the horse won 10 out of 13 rules races this year. Trained by Willie Mullins, the nine-year old has looked great all season long and has no issues with jumping like some of his opponents.
That puts him ahead of the pack for the Champion Chase on the second day of the festival. He also won the race last year, so Mullins will be looking to repeat that success once more. Energumene has what it takes to get to the finish line first, and he’s the overwhelming favourite in front of Edwardstone and Editeur Du Gite.
For a while, Teahupoo was the main favourite for the Stayers Hurdle on Thursday. However, things have changed recently, with sportsbooks picking Blazing Khal as the favourite (3/1). Teahupoo is right on his heels at 4/1, and may be the better pick for most punters and racegoers.
Gordon Elliot’s horse defeated the legendary Honeysuckle in Hatton’s Grace earlier this year. He was an afterthought last year for the Champion Hurdle, but this year, his odds will be fancied by many bettors.
Charles Byrne’s Blazing Khal has won all three hurdle races this season and looks in great shape ahead of Cheltenham. The last won race was at Cheltenham in December, which is most likely the reason why he’s been put just a whiff in front of Teahupoo.
Aside from the top picks for each race during the Cheltenham Festival, we can also mention a few horses that didn’t make the list but may be great choices. Among them is Protektorat for the Gold Cup who’s currently priced at a decent 14/1. Last year’s second-placed Minella Indo is 20/1 and more than a decent pick for many bettors who believe Minella has what it takes to jump through the final fence first unlike last year.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase has some great names on the list, mainly Editeur de Gate on 6/1 and Edwardstone on 15/8. Many believe any of the horses can surprise Energumene and snatch the Champion Chase from under his nose.
As for the Champion Hurdle, Constitution Hill is firmly in the lead but is chased by State Man and Vauban. If you like dark horses over your favourite picks, you shouldn’t overlook these runners.