If you asked the typical punter which event they most looking forward to in the racing calendar, you’d most likely be told either the Grand National or the Cheltenham Festival. Granted as a one off race the National has massive worldwide appeal (and I’m sure we all get involved in the office sweepstakes etc), but as a four day feast of top class racing the Cheltenham Festival has much going for it too.
Taking place this year from the 15th to 18th March The Cheltenham Festival is a golden opportunity to watch the best owners, trainers, jockeys and horses come together in a bid to put their stamp on an event that’s steeped in history. This year there is a really upbeat feel to the Festival along with a bustling crowd, due to the lifting of all Covid restrictions across the country. It’s a chance to soap in a top sporting event, and to have a punt, whether on course or watching the coverage from home. The racing public simply can’t wait for the ‘Cheltenham Roar’ to sound and the top class racing to begin.
To gear up to the Cheltenham Festival Betway decided to get together two well known figures in the world of trainers (one from the Premier League and another racing) to discuss the ins and outs of the role, how to maintain a successful career and how to get the best out of those you’re training (whether horse or human!). Of course there are plenty of differences between the two sports but without a doubt, on the mental side (determination etc) as well as the processes in place and expectations within the sport there are plenty of commonalities too. Once you’ve watched this entertaining exchange why not check out the betting odds for some of your favourite Cheltenham selections and have something to cheer on, during this unmissable Festival! Good luck!
The Fillies’ Triple Crown consists of the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and St. Leger and, since World War II, has been won by just two fillies, Meld in 1955 and Oh So Sharp in 1985. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed, in whose famous maroon and white silks she raced, and trained by Henry Cecil, Oh So Sharp was hailed by jockey Steve Cauthen as ‘the best filly I rode’.
Having made a winning reappearance in the Nell Gwyn Stakes, Oh So Sharp was sent off 2/1 favourite ffor what turned out to be an epic renewal of the 1,000 Guineas. On the descent into the Dip on the Rowley Mile, victory looked unlikely but, galvanised in the closing stages, Oh So Sharp joined, and passed, leaders Bella Colora and Al Bahatri in the shadow of the post to win by a short head.
By contrast, the Oaks proved to be a much more straightfoward affair. Sent off 6/4 favourite on her favoured soft going, Oh So Sharp tackled the leader, Triptych, inside the final quarter-of-a-mile and displayed an impressive turn of foot to draw clear in the closing stages and win, comfortably, by six lengths. Cauthen later said, ‘She just raced for fun on ground that suited her.’
Oh So Sharp was subequently beaten, albeit not far, at odds-on in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup at York. Nevertheless, she was sent off 8/11 favourite for the St. Leger at Doncaster and, although only workman-like, managed to hold on to beat Phardante and Lanfranco by three-quarters of a length and a head.
A HIGH-CLASS renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes is guaranteed with Tarnawa taking on the likes of St Mark’s Basilica and Poetic Flare in the September clash.
With October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe the main target for Tarnawa, trainer Dermot Weld is lining up a run at Leopardstown as preparation for the Paris trip.
The five-year-old boasts a sequence of five straight wins, and in his only run this year impressed with a six-length success in the Grant Thornton Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown – his first run in 271 days, reports History of Sport.
And it was last season that Tarnawa really started making the racing world sit up and take notice, claiming the Prix Vermeille and Prix de l’Opera before beating the favourite Magical in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland.
“I thought she was very impressive,” said Weld after her seasonal debut. “Today was the intended day to start, because it’s a long way from now to November, and there are a lot of bridges to cross. We could have waited for the Give Thanks Stakes at Cork, but with the possibility of heavy rain we thought it more prudent to come here.
“She has done all of her work at home. I would have loved to get her away two weeks ago but it just wasn’t possible. She has been going extremely well at home and has probably strengthened since last year.”
On plans for the rest of the year, Weld added: “It’s a long season, but where she runs between now and the Arc will be the decision. At the moment I’d say the Irish Champion Stakes would be the most likely. The Breeders’ Cup and Japan Cup come later in November and December, and please God there are many more months to come. But the Arc has always been the plan – it’s the reason she stayed in training.”
While Tarnawa is currently trading as the 6/1 favourite for the Arc, as Horse. Bet reports, she is the 10/3 second favourite for the Irish Champion Stakes, with St Mark’s Basilica ahead of her in the betting – Aidan O’Brien’s son of Siyouni installed as the 2/1 favourite for the Leopardstown feature. Lauded as an “incredible horse” by O’Brien, who has seen more than his fair share of top-class racers, the colt has enjoyed a memorable season with three runs and three wins: two classics and a Group One with victories at Longchamp in the French 2000 Guineas, Chantilly for the French Derby, before dominating his rivals in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
The three-year-old finished 2020 as Europe’s highest-rated juvenile, having won the Dewhurst Stakes on his final start of last year, and is priced at 10/1 for the Arc. BBC Sport
The English 2000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare is just behind the leading two in the Leopardstown betting, and was narrowly defeated in the Prix Jacques Le Marios at Deauville by Palace Pier. The Jim Bolger-trained son of Dawn Approach lost little in a narrow defeat, just pipped on the line in a thrilling finish at Deauville
HAYDOCK’S biggest race of the year, the Sprint Cup, is gearing up to be a high-class affair with Starman installed as the firm favourite to claim the £162K first prize. Some horse racing sites in the UK will offer good prices, odds and offers ahead of this event.
The Group One is a six-furlong test for the speedsters of Britain and Ireland, and has been in the grip of the English over recent years, with trainer Ed Walker keen to maintain that record with his four-year-old Darley July Cup winner.
Starman leads the betting despite following up his Newmarket success with defeat at Deauville, the trainer insisting he lost nothing in his third-placed finish in the Prix Maurice de Gheest.
Owner David Ward was keen to send him over the Channel in search of a second Group One, but the son of Dutch Art found both the conditions at the French track and the extra half a furlong not in his favour. BBC Sport
But Walker believes he will come on for the run despite registering a second defeat in seven career races, with the Sprint Cup still firmly in his sights.
“I’m very proud of him. He ran a massive race and was very brave. He’s genuine and talented and the ground just blunted his speed and put more of an emphasis on stamina,” said the Upper Lambourn trainer, who claimed his own first Group One success with Starman’s Darley July Cup victory at Newmarket.
“He was beaten by a couple of horses that have got very good form over further. I think he lost nothing in defeat and credit to David Ward for being brave enough to give it a shot.”
There’ll be stiff competition when he heads to Merseyside in September, with long-time rivals Dragon Symbol and Glen Shiel also near the top of the betting. Dragon Symbol was just over a length behind Starman in the Darley July Cup and despite Glen Shiel being down the field at Newmarket and at Deauville, the seven-year-old did inflict his only defeat on home shores in the QIPCO British Champion Spring Stakes at Ascot last year.
That reverse at Ascot, however, was in soft conditions, and Starman was taken out of the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot on account of the testing surface, with both owner and trainer having their fingers crossed for drying weather in the build up to Haydock, reports History of Sport.
The Sprint Cup trends point to the likes of Starman (9/2), Dragon Symbol (13/2) or Glen Shiel (9/1) being successful, with six of the last eight winners having been in the first three in the betting, and three of the last five favourites triumphing.
Further down the betting brings in the Irish contenders who will be targeting the Haydock showdown despite their distinctive lack of success in the race over recent years. The likes of Gustavus Weston and the Aidan O’Brien-trained Battleground will be hoping to mimic Gordon Lord Byron’s win in 2013 – the Tom Hogan-trained five-year-old beat Slade Power into second for an Irish one-two, the only success for the Irish in the race for almost 50 years.
There’s solid support for Gustavus Weston, who is currently trading at around 12/1, and Tipperary trainer Joe Murphy sends the horse over in great form following the most impressive win of his career under his belt – a front-running success under Gary Carroll in the Group 3 Rathasker Stud Phoenix Sprint Stakes at the Curragh.