It’s almost that time of year when fans of National Hunt racing the world over turn their attention to the Regency Spa town of Cheltenham for the appropriately named “Festival” of racing - a truly veritable festival of all that is wonderful about racing over the obstacles.
The attention on this great meeting seems to know no bounds - expanding each year as the cream of British and Irish chasers and hurdlers do battle over the old Prestbury Park racecourse.
Each year, hundreds of millions of pounds are staked on the outcome of the 28 main races at the four-day Festival.
Which horse is likely to win each race comes under an enormous amount of scrutiny - with endless words of expert advice from different sources.
At the Freebets.uk Cheltenham page, for example, the latest bookmakers’ offers along with tips for this year’s Cheltenham Festival - which is scheduled to take place between Tuesday, March 14th and Friday, March 17th - are detailed.
These details are well worth studying for racegoers, not least as the enormous commercialism of the whole event also means there are many free bets on offer as the bookmakers compete hard for our custom - so it pays to take advantage of the best offers around. It’s one of those rare times of year when we punters may get a real edge.
Each day of the Cheltenham Festival has a feature “Champion’s” race. On the first day, Tuesday, this is the Champion Hurdle, on Wednesday it’s the Queen Mother Champion Chase, on Thursday the World Hurdle and on Friday, of course, it’s the blue riband event; the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
After the Grand National (which is, of course, a handicap race), the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and World Hurdle are the next richest prizes in UK National Hunt - in that order. The prize money on offer makes the Festival the most valuable and prestigious fixture in jump racing anywhere in the world.
At the Festival, drinkers will put away around 20,000 bottles of Champagne and 200,000 pints of Guinness. And close to a quarter of a million spectators will pack into the racecourse in total over the four days - with millions more urging on their selections at home in front of the TV.
Since 2004, Irish jockey Ruby Walsh has won an unprecedented 10 of the 13 possible top jockey at the Festival titles - and is odds-on favourite to win yet again in 2017. Meanwhile, Irish trainer Willie Mullins, for whom Walsh predominantly rides, has won five of the last six top trainer titles at the Festival and is also odds-on to win again this year. The pair look invincible at Cheltenham and, once again, have a formidable looking line-up ready for the greatest National Hunt meeting there is - headed by Gold Cup 7-1 chance Djakadam and 7-year-old hurdler Yorkhill, currently around 4-1 for the Champion Hurdle.
It promises to be a wonderful meeting - as always, at this race meeting which is truly like no other.