How many horses retain the Championship races at the Cheltenham festival?
Cheltenham Festival betting
A number of horses that have basked in the glory of winning a championship race at the festival before will often head back to Cheltenham to contest the race the following year. The likes of Big Buck’s and Kauto Star will be bidding to land major honours for the third time. The former will be looking to retain the World Hurdle for the third successive year while the latter will be aiming to get back to winning ways after last year’s blip in the Gold Cup.
It is these runners that usually go off as market leaders the following year and rightly so. The championship races at the festival often sees horses that have won the contest previously go on to score in the race the following year. This now becomes their target for the whole National Hunt season and Imperial Commander will be looking to demonstrate consistency by retaining the Gold Cup this year. Kauto Star has already tasted success in the Cheltenham showpiece twice before and was subsequently priced at 8/11 odds on as he attempted a hat-trick of wins. Paul Nicholls’ star performer fell and failed to justify favouritism but will be back for another crack in 2011. Those who retain the Cheltenham championship races though are usually favourite for a repeat, so the aforementioned Imperial Commander is likely to go off market leader in March – but can he retain it?
Only a select handful of horses retain the four feature races at the festival and thus are deserving of their tags as the very best of their time. If we take a look at those who have retained the major races in recent times; one will come across Best Mate. Henrietta Knight’s classy performer won the retained the Gold Cup twice after winning it in 2002 and scoring the following two years. For the most successful Gold Cup horse ever one must trawl through the record books way back to the 1930s where Golden Miller won it for five consecutive years. Arkle was another successful Gold Cup horse that retained the coveted trophy twice winning it on three successive occasions in the 1960s.
The World Hurdle has been dominated in the last twenty-four months by one horse in particular – Big Buck’s. After his first win in 2009 at odds of 6/1 this star hurdler has gone from strength to strength over obstacles and was sent off 5/6 favourite for the following year’s World Hurdle. Big Buck’s will be bidding to equal Inglis Drever’s record of three wins in this race and is sure to go off shorter than his 2010 victory. It would come as no surprise to see the Paul Nicholls’ trained horse go off at significant odds against which some punters might regard as unbackable odds. Inglis Drever took this event in 2005, 2007 and 2008 and his odds fluctuated dramatically. The Howard Johnson trained gelding first took the spoils as a six-year-old at odds of 5/1 and after missing the race the following year he made up for lost time scoring again at the same odds in 2007. The bookmakers shortened him up somewhat in 2008 but he went in again at 11/8 and his successes previously went someway towards shaping the betting. Big Buck’s is the one to beat this year and it’s hard to see him not emulating this success; certainly he holds a great chance of retaining the World Hurdle.
The last horse to retain the Champion Hurdle was Dessie Hughes’ Hardy Eustace who after his success in 2004 followed it up twelve months later with another commanding display. Binocular won it last time and will be well fancied to retain the race but he has chinks in his armoury that were exposed in the 2009 running. He finished only third that day and despite franking that form with his victory last time – is he a horse who is capable of retaining this championship race? The Nicky Henderson trained French import was sent off at 9/1 for his Champion Hurdle success and one can be sure he goes off much shorter in March’s renewal. Henderson has a most impressive record in this contest and won it three times in as many years with See You Then in the late 1980s.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a race which has been won and retained by a number or horses. Badsworth Boy is the most successful horse in this winning it on three occasions although several other runners have won this chase twice. And one of those is Master Minded who will be gunning to equal the record number of wins in 2011 after claiming the cash prizes in both 2008 and 2009. He won his first Queen Mother at odds of 3/1 and went off at an unprecedented 4/11 odds against favourite twelve months later, which he duly obliged. A healthier price will be available for him this year but can he shrug off last year’s disappointment? Or will Big Zeb return to the winner’s enclosure for the second year running?
The Coral Cup and The Fred Winter are two of the races which have been dominated by winners who had won last time out. In fact from 2005-2010, nine of the last ten winners of both these events all had winning form before heading to the Cheltenham festival. This is a statistic that cannot be overlooked in 2011 and one which might just be further reinforced after the four-day period in March. With some of the handicap races being relatively new additions to the Cheltenham festival card, often there is precious little to go regarding form from the race the previous year. This is true of the Fred Winter Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, and although there’s not a lot to go on yet, that statistic keeps appearing – three of the past four winners of this race were successful last time out. So keep it at the forefront of ones mind and hopefully it will pave the way for a profitable 2011 Cheltenham festival!
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