Several horses will attempt back-to-back wins at the Cheltenham Festival following victories in 2018. The following are a selection of those with the best chances of adding to their successes of 12 months ago:
Fourteen length winner of the Racing Post Arkle Chase and the best two mile novice chaser either side of the Irish sea. The Willie Mullins-trained gelding looked the biggest threat to the dominance of Altior but things have not gone according to plan so far this season. 7-1 (nrnb) for Champion Chase with bet365. 6-1 (nrnb) for Ryanair with bet365.
Favourite to become the first horse to win three Champion Hurdles since the great Istabraq. Suffered a slight setback when beaten by stablemate Verdana Blue at Kempton but both wins either side of that narrow defeat indicate that the gelding will once again prove the one to beat. 15-8 (nrnb) for Champion Hurdle with Paddy Power.
Unbeaten in five starts since joining Willie Mullins from France, including last year’s OLBG Mares’ Hurdle when taking the scalp of a below-par Apple’s Jade. Yet to be seen this season due to the lack of soft ground but must have an outstanding chance of following up in one of the weakest races at the festival. 13-8 (nrnb) for Mares’ Hurdle with bet365.
Impressive winner of 2018 RSA Chase but far from ideal preparation for Magners Gold Cup with only a cosy win in Galmoy Hurdle the gelding’s only start of season so far. 7-2 (nrnb) for Gold Cup with Betvictor.
Hard to see anything preventing the best two mile chaser in training from winning his second Queen Mother Champion Chase, providing the nine-year-old gets there fit and well and puts in a clear round. 4-9 (nrnb) for Champion Chase with Betvictor.
Last season’s Cross Country Chase and Grand National winner surprised all and sundry by winning a Grade 2 hurdle on his reappearance recently. Possibly the most popular horse in training and few would bet against Gordon Elliott’s gelding winning for the fourth time at the festival. 5-4 for Cross Country Chase with William Hill.
Has taken really well to fences since winning the 2018 Pertemps Final (as did Presenting Percy) and must have a great chance of emulating that Gold Cup favourite by following up in the RSA Chase. 4-1 for RSA Chase with William Hill.
Faces a much stiffer test against the likes of Buveur D’Air and Apple’s Jade in the Champion Hurdle than when winning a weak Mares’ Novices Hurdle last year. Very much the unknown quantity of the race. 7-2 (nrnb) for Champion Hurdle with bet365.
Laurina had her flu jab last week and will undoubtedly come on for that run, but I do feel that her jumping will hinder her chance in the Champion Hurdle.— Stu 'Jimbo' Williams (@Jimbo_JumpsMan) February 20, 2019
Both Buveur D’Air & Apple’s Jade ping their hurdles.
Beat Might Bite in one of the races of the season to win last year’s Gold Cup. Colin Tizzard’s consistent gelding will have to face plenty of serious challengers if he is to follow up but still the most likely winner in the eyes of many. 11-2 for Gold Cup with William Hill.