Sunday February 24th 2019
Cheltenham Festival is known for its drama, which is one of the reasons why spectators flood to the event in their thousands every year, while millions watch at home on television.
The public watch in the stands and viewers tune in at home to see the excitement play out in the most enthralling races in the National Hunt. Some of the meets are all but decided already due to the quality of the competitor in the ranks.
Races with Altior and Buveur D’Air in recent history have been over before they have even begun. However, other meets have provided drama right on the line, making the Festival one of the most intense sporting events in the British and Irish sporting calendar.
Lets’ now look at two races that could well go down to the line as there appears to be no clear favourite in the Cheltenham betting odds based on form over the course of the current campaign.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
‘He has plenty of gears and I believe this is a high-class horse’@PaulKealyRP tipped Al Dancer for the Supreme (and advised a maximum bet for the Betfair Hurdle beforehand!) in his first @RPWeekender Cheltenham ante-post column
Don’t miss the second instalment on Wednesday! pic.twitter.com/TJh2QWs1tQ
— Weekender (@RPWeekender) 13 January 2019
The race for novice hurdlers is one of the hardest to predict due to the lack of race action for the majority of competitors in the field. Some of the past winners of the event have gone on to great success at the Festival – most notably the aforementioned Altior in 2016. Al Dancer is the favourite this time around and he has pedigree in the National Hunt this term, winning the last four of his races, including the Betfair Hurdle.
However, the threat of the unknown can be dangerous and Nicky Henderson’s Angels Breath has raw potential, winning his only race by a comfortable margin. Given the fact he has only taken to the track once makes it difficult to project success at Cheltenham. The same could be said for Klassical Dream, although trainer Willie Mullins does have a strong history in the event, winning the race on five occasions. It’s a difficult one to predict, but the best case is going with experience over a rookie.
RSA Novices’ Chase
Why does Santini win the RSA?
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) 4 February 2019
Depending on the quality of competitors in the field, this race can be easier to determine the leading contenders, although the 2019 version looks to be an unpredictable affair. Henderson’s Santini has been installed as the early favourite, although he finished third at Cheltenham last season in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and failed to rise to the occasion at the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day finishing third. Santini did put forward a fine performance to win the John Francome Novices’ Chase last November, but that was his last victory of the term.
Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work has the talent to challenge for the crown, reeling off three wins on the bounce. However, he has not been tested by an elite company of horses. His best triumph came at the Drinmore Novice Chase, defeating Le Richebourg, who is likely to compete in the Arkle Chase rather than the RSA Chase.
Paul Nicholls’ Topofthegame finished second in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham last season, losing out by a neck. He has been the nearly horse this term, placing second in his two races in the Heavitree Brewery PLC Novices’ Chase and Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, although in the latter he did finish ahead of Santini. Wins over quality can be illuminating at this level, and Delta Work’s victory over Le Richebourg stands out the most.