FOR four days in March, over 200,000 racing fans from across the world make the historic pilgrimage to Cheltenham to watch the best horses in National Hunt racing. With 28 races spread over the four days next week, the Gloucester racecourse is a melting pot of drama, excitement and exhilaration. Here’s a quick guide to the four feature races that make it the greatest show on earth.
Champion Hurdle – Tuesday
Michael: I believe Annie Power is beatable; she’s been messed around over various distances over the past two years and hasn’t shown any literal form to make her favourite for this since. Instead, I favour Nichols Canyon – the only horse ever to defeat Faugheen. He also held Identify Thief on their last meeting too
John: Identity Thief for me. He has had a solid season without fireworks but this isn’t a vintage renewal of the race and I’m hoping he improves for the better ground. I think Nichols Canyon was flattered in beating Faugheen and has been put in his place since.
Champion Chase – Wednesday
Michael: Hard to knock Un De Sceaux and it looks like only the fences can seriously get in the way of his hooves claiming the crown. Fantastic to see a rejuvenated Sprinter Sacre this season who should push Un De Sceaux, but God’s Own looks the each-way selection back over two miles and on better ground.
John: If Un De Sceaux jumps round, he’ll win. Special Tiara would be my each-way selection, he was unlucky not to win the Tingle Creek in December and should run well.
World Hurdle – Thursday
Michael: Thistlecrack wins and nothing else really matters. Impossible not to be impressed with him all year, having continued to step up all year, and there are no chinks in his armour. He’s a better price than Un De Sceaux too. Cole Harden will be better on good ground but will need to step up to beat Thistlecrack.
John: Only question I can pose about Thistlecrack is the ground, with soft typically in the going description for all of his wins. Nevertheless, I still believe he’ll win. Wouldn’t discount Alpha Des Obeaux, who fell when challenging Thistlecrack at Aintree last year.
Gold Cup – Friday
Michael: Yet to really decide who will win this. Cue Card is doing it for the Brits and it would be a fantastic story for trainer and farmer Colin Tizzard to win the Triple Crown of jump racing. Vautour will strip fitter than last time and will be back at his beloved Cheltenham while Djakadam is the best from last year. This will be an incredible race.
John: Cue Card is going to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Don Poli is lazy, Djakadam’s last run and fall was not encouraging, Vautour will not stay given his Kempton run and I’ve not been impressed with Don Cossack this season – he also doesn’t appear to like Cheltenham.
Michael Andrews and John Gibby
Featured image: This Cotswold Girl