When it comes to having a bet on horse racing, nothing compares to the Cheltenham Festival.

Forget online betting on horse racing, the four-day fiesta at the home of National Hunt racing has to be experienced to be believed.

Here, we take a deep dive into the four ‘championship’ races on each day of the Cheltenham Festival by offering crucial data, information and an ante-post selection before each runner’s horse racing odds contract as the meeting looms into sight:

Champion Hurdle

Date: March 12, 2024
UK Time: 3.30pm
Distance: 2m½f

Last five winners:

2023: Constitution Hill

2022: Honeysuckle

2021: Honeysuckle

2020: Epatante

2019: Espoir D’Allen

Winning-most horses:

Hatton’s Grace – 1949, 1950, 1951

Sir Ken – 1952, 1953, 1954

Persian War – 1968, 1969, 1970

See You Then – 1985, 1986, 1987

Istabraq – 1998, 1999, 2000

Winning-most trainers:

Nicky Henderson – See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010), Buveur D’Air (2017, 2018), Epatante (2020), Constitution Hill (2023)

Winning-most jockeys:

Tim Molony – Hatton’s Grace (1951), Sir Ken (1952, 1953, 1954)

Ruby Walsh – Hurricane Fly (2011, 2013), Faugheen (2015), Annie Power (2016)

Barry Geraghty – Punjabi (2009), Jezki (2014), Buveur D’Air (2018), Epatante (2020)

Race description:

In many ways, the Champion Hurdle is the biggest race of the four-day Festival. It’s almost certainly the most eagerly awaited – even more so than the Gold Cup – as it is the pinnacle of the first day of the Festival.

It takes a rare type of horse to win the great race. You need speed, fluency over flights, quality and a surprising level of stamina.

A horse also requires a world-class jockey as the field travels at such a pace that a split-second decision so often makes the difference between glory or failure.

The Verdict:

It is, quite simply, impossible to look beyond CONSTITUTION HILL. Nicky Henderson’s inmate is the best jumps horse on the planet and ought to win back-to-back renewals doing proverbial handstands.

It is a shame we see so little of him throughout a season, but the wait will surely be worthwhile – even if Constitution Hill is not totally firing on all cylinders.

STATE MAN would have won this in any other year and looks the obvious selection for the exacta.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

Date: March 13, 2024

UK Time: 3.30pm

Distance: 2m

Last five winners:

2023 – Energumene

2022 – Energumene

2021 – Put The Kettle On

2020 – Politologue

2019 – Altior

Winning-most horse:

Badsworth Boy – 1983, 1984, 1985

Winning-most trainers:

Tom Dreaper – Fortria (1960, 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966), Muir (1969), Straight Fort (1970)

Nicky Henderson – Remittance Man (1992), Finian’s Rainbow (2012), Sprinter Sacre (2013, 2016), Altior (2018, 2019)

Paul Nicholls – Call Equiname (1999), Azertyuiop (2004), Master Minded (2008, 2009), Dodging Bullets (2015), Politologue (2020)

Winning-most jockeys:

Pat Taaffe – Fortria (1960, 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966), Straight Fort (1970)

Barry Geraghty – Moscow Flyer (2003, 2005), Big Zeb (2010), Finian’s Rainbow (2012), Sprinter Sacre (2013)

Race description:

There are few better sights in horse racing than watching the field rip up the Cheltenham hill in the Queen Mother.

Watching the runners in full flow over fences is one of the great joys for any sports fan, which is why the Queen Mother is such a compelling event.

Sadly for the purist, the Champion Chase has lacked strength in depth for quite a few years now, but it usually produces a superstar – and nearly always generates a dramatic storyline.

The Verdict:

Willie Mullins can win this for a third consecutive year with EL FABIOLO.

Last season’s Arkle hero has looked like a potential superstar over fences and, on all known form, is head and shoulders above these rivals.

JONBON was an abject disappointment in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase and is now not one to trust implicitly. That said, he is trained by a genius who should have him ripe for the big occasion.

That said, it is hard to see him reversing Arkle form with El Fabiolo, who is an absolute monster of a horse.

Stayers Hurdle

Date: March 14, 2024

UK Time: 3.30pm

Distance: 3m

Last five winners:

2023 – Sire Du Berlais

2022 – Flooring Porter

2021 – Flooring Porter

2020 – Lisnagar Oscar

2019 – Paisley Park

Winning-most horse:

Big Buck’s – 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Winning-most trainer:

Paul Nicholls – Big Buck’s (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)

Winning-most jockey:

Ruby Walsh – Big Buck’s (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), Nichols Canyon (2017)

Race description:

As the name might suggest, stamina is the name of the game in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

If there is even a scintilla of doubt that a horse might not stay the three-mile trip, then it is probably not worth trying.

This is a race that often changes complexion markedly over the last few flights, so do not throw away your betting-slip if your selection looks out with the washing.

That is especially true this season as there is no stand-out contender in what is a wide-open, if sub-par, renewal.

The Verdict:

CRAMBO can claim an emotional success for popular trainer Fergal O’Brien. The upwardly mobile seven-year-old has done precious little wrong throughout his career but has now taken his game to the next level.

He was excellent in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December and looks the ideal sort to handle the infamous Cheltenham hill. He stays all day, has a touch of class and, crucially, a bit of pace when it is most needed.

Gordon Elliott’s duo, IRISH POINT and TEAHUPOO, can also trouble the judge in the minor places.

Gold Cup

Date: March 15, 2024

UK Time: 3.30pm

Distance: 3m2½f

Last five winners:

2023 – Galopin Des Champs

2022 – A Plus Tard

2021 – Minella Indo

2020 – Al Boum Photo

2019 – Al Boum Photo

Winning-most horses:

Golden Miller – 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936

Winning-most trainer:

Tom Dreaper – Prince Regent (1946), Arkle (1964, 1965, 1966), Fort Leney (1968)

Winning-most jockey:

Pat Taaffe – Arkle (1964, 1965, 1966), Fort Leney (1968)

Race description:

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is, simply, the holy grail of the great game.

It takes a unique horse to win the ultimate prize in jumps racing, which is why so many have tried and failed over the years.

Stamina, quality, brilliance over fences and speed are all prerequisites if a horse is to achieve Gold Cup glory.

Any contender must also be able to handle whatever the ground is like and possess the temperament to keep cool in the white-hot cauldron on Gold Cup day.

The jockey must also be on top of his form and the trainer must have gone through a horse’s preparation with surgical precision.

And then, even then, a horse needs fortune.

If all those stars align, only then will a horse have the chance of winning a Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Verdict:

GALOPIN DES CHAMPS can justify his short price-tag to win back-to-back renewals of the great race.

Willie Mullins’ superstar has been a slow-burner this season but has really come alive of late and produced arguably the performance of his lifetime at Leopardstown over Christmas.

He looks an even better horse than 12 months ago and will take an awful lot of stopping now jockey Paul Townend has switched to more forceful, front-running tactics.

Old rivals FASTORSLOW can chase him home, with GENTLEMANSGAME a live outsider at the prices.

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