The Cheltenham Festival is now just a matter of days away and with that in mind, we take a closer look at one of the more important and popular side bets - how will the "big four" favourites get on? Every seaso, we hear about whether or not Cheltenham is a successful one for the bookies or the punters and the outcome of that battle will of course depend on the number of favourites who win. Punters can have a go at guessing exactly how many of the favourites, if any, will win the four Championship races this year's meeting, so we have taken a closer look at the likely market leaders next week and whether the 33/1 with Skybet about all four (un-named) jollies winning is a good bet or not.
The first Championship race of the week is of course the Champion Hurdle and all the signs are that Hurricane Fly will start a warm order favourite for the first Championship race on Tuesday. The Willie Mullins in-mate famously won the Champion Hurdle two years ago and plenty are expecting him to repeat that feat this time around. Last season was a slight disappointment for Hurricane Fly when he could only manage third when defending his trophy but so far this winter he has looked back to somewhere near his best over in Ireland.
Jockey Ruby Walsh has certainly been bullish about the chances of Hurricane Fly this season and at this stage it is hard to see any other horse starting as favourite. The horse has been far too good for his main rivals in Ireland this season and he could well provide favourite backers with a solid start to the meeting on day one. Some have doubted his ability to act around Cheltenham in the past and he does face some stiff opposition from the likes of Zarkandar and Rock On Ruby but on form he is the one to beat and is likely to be unchallenged in the pre-race market at least.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
The second favourite of the week when it comes to the Championship races is of course Sprinter Sacre, who will start as the hot pot of the Festival in the Champion Chase. The Nicky Henderson horse won the Arkle Chase last season at Cheltenham and has looked even better this time around winning both of his starts in scintillating fashion. Most experts believe that Sprinter Sacre could well be the next big superstar of the sport and a win in the Champion Chase on Wednesday will further cement his reputation.
The feeling is that Sprinter Sacre needs only to remain upright if he is to win the race and it would be a major surprise if he didn't go in on Wednesday afternoon. His prohibitive odds do however make him a difficult horse to back leaving many punters looking for a horse to chase him home.
The World Hurdle betting is much less straightforward on Wednesday with any number of horses capable of claiming the win and even starting favoruite. At the moment, the likely favourite is Oscar Whisky who could be another big race winner for Nicky Henderson. The horse is a class act on his day and although doubts remain about his stamina, he does have every chance of winning if he can get a nice bit of good ground.
Last time out we saw Oscar Whisky narrowly finish second at Cheltenham in the Cleeve Hurdle with Reve De sivola narrowly out-staying him. The ground was testing that day and played into the hands of a dour stayer like Reve De Sivola despite Oscar Whisky travelling like the best horse. At present, Oscar Whisky is the narrow 3/1 Favourite In The World Hurdle Betting but he could drift on the day if we see some rain.
The final Championship race of the week is of course the Gold Cup and this is another difficult race for punters to find the winner of. There are four contenders towards the head of the betting with Bobs Worth the current market leader, and likely favourite when the tapes go up. The Nicky Henderson horse has won at the Festival for the last two years and his win in the Hennessy Gold cup last December looks to be rock solid form.
Taking that into account, Bobs Worth looks a worthy favourite but he did miss his prep run and he does face some stiff competition according to the betting. Willie Mullins is bringing over Festival winner, Sir Des Champs, who is a class act while former winner Long Run won the King George last time out and will surely go very close. However, all the indications are that Bobs Worth will start the favourite and based on form, he has to have a good chance of running a big race if he is fit and well.
Number of Favourites Winning The Championship Races
Evens - two or more winning favourites in the Championship races
6/1 - three or more winning favourites in the Championship races
33/1 - All of the big four races won by the favourite.
Odds supplied courtesy of SkyBet.com. However, if you think the four current market leaders will all go on to win their respective races, you can get combined odds of 76/1 with Paddy Power!