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With the start of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival just eight weeks away, this is a good time to assess each of the main races at the four-day meeting.
The Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup are the standout betting events at the annual horse racing extravaganza.
With that in mind, we have scoured the ante-post markets to identify which horses are the main contenders for each of the prestigious Grade 1 races.
The betting for the 2024 Champion Hurdle has a lopsided look to it, with last year’s winner Constitution Hill currently ranked as the 1/3 favourite.
The Nicky Henderson trained horse has won all eight of his starts under Rules and is a banker bet to retain his two-mile hurdling title on the opening day.
Constitution Hill comfortably defeated State Man in this race last season and the Irish raider will find it difficult to reverse the form in this year’s renewal.
The rest of the entries for the Champion Hurdle look out of their depth and it would be no surprise to see the big two scare off most of the opposition.
Just seven runners went to post last year – the lowest number since Faugheen led home a field of eight for trainer Willie Mullins in 2015.
The Champion Chase is another race in which two horses look set to dominate, with El Fabiolo and Jonbon leading the ante-post betting by a country mile.
El Fabiolo is currently priced at odds of 4/5 to win the race and is rated by many punters as a banker bet to defeat Jonbon at Cheltenham for the second successive year.
He triumphed by five-and-a-half lengths in the Arkle Novices’ Chase, keeping on strongly on the run-in to leave Jonbon trailing in his wake.
However, it is worth noting that Jonbon defeated El Fabiolo in the 2022 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, albeit by a much narrower margin.
Both horses have impressed in their warm-up runs this season and they look a good bet to fight out the finish in the Champion Chase.
The Stayers’ Hurdle is undoubtedly the trickiest of the main Festival races to predict, with several horses holding a genuine chance of emerging victorious.
Teahupoo and Irish Point give trainer Gordon Elliott a strong hand in the race, while French raider Theleme is an intriguing entry for the three-mile event.
The landscape is further complicated by Impaire Et Passe, who is currently priced at odds of 8/1 to win at the meeting for the second successive year.
He recorded an impressive victory in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in 2023, but has been brought back in distance to have a potential crack at the Champion Hurdle.
However, if he fails to beat stablemate State Man in the Irish equivalent next month, Mullins may decide to bite the bullet and run him in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The ante-post market for the 2024 Cheltenham Gold Cup had a wide-open look to it heading into the festive season, with several horses rated as leading contenders for the race.
Things changed after the Savills Chase at Leopardstow was staged, with Galopin Des Champs powering clear of several of his potential Gold Cup rivals.
That performance marked a return to winning ways for the horse, who had twice finished behind Fastorslow at Punchestown since winning the 2023 Gold Cup.
While Fastorslow’s connections will fancy their chances of their horse lowering Galopin Des Champs’ colours at Cheltenham, that will be easier said than done.
Fastorslow has never won over further than three miles and the extra two-and-a-half furlongs in the Gold Cup should favour the reigning champion.
Michael specializes in journalism, digital content production and social media management. He has a passion for numerous sports including football, horse racing and ice hockey. Michael currently works on a freelance basis, producing daily content for various outlets within the sports industry.