The 2017 Cheltenham Festival is just 18 days away
PICTURE:Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
By Mark Scully 10:11AM 24 FEB 2017
THIS week the racing media descended on the yards of Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Colin Tizzard to see their respective Cheltenham Festival teams paraded for the cameras as the biggest four days in racing draw ever closer.
To coincide with the visits, bookmakers have come up with a host of exotic bets for customers looking for something a bit different, so stop your messing around and get a load of these specials.
The strength of Colin Tizzard’s hand in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup is illustrated by the fact Boylesports make him a 5-4 chance to win the race, despite the fact his ante-post favourite Thistlecrack will not be taking his chance.
Native River took over at the head of the market following Tuesday’s stunning news, his price ranging from 5-2 to 3-1, and after his Ascot Chase romp last weekend, stablemate Cue Card is next best at a general 7-2.
Both Boylesports and Sky Bet will give you 8-1 about Tizzard emulating Paul Nicholls in both 2008 and 2009 by sending out the one-two in the race, while you can get 20-1 with the same firm for him to cap an excellent season by becoming the meeting’s leading trainer. Betway, meanwhile, go 9-1 that he will be the leading UK-based trainer.
As for which of his two staying stars will be sent off favourite on the day, Paddy Power make Native River a 4-5 shot to be the SP market leader, with Cue Card at 5-4. If you think there will be a big plunge on another runner, you can have 5-1 that anything else will take favouritism.
If you want to enjoy yourself at Cheltenham you could do a lot worse than following the master of Seven Barrows, with Henderson’s stunning 55 festival winners a record, so it is no surprise to see him the 4-5 favourite with Betway to be the leading UK trainer.
For those who think they have worked out exactly how many winners he will saddle, Betway go as follows: no winners 10-1, one winner 7-2, two or three winners 11-4, four winners 9-2 and five or more 10-1.
Henderson seemed particularly pleased earlier in the week with his three-pronged Stan James Champion Hurdle squad, with favourite Buveur D’Air backed up by the progressive Brain Power and the veteran My Tent Or Yours.
If you like the idea of all three running for you in the opening day’s feature, Betway go 7-4 for Henderson to get his hands on the trophy one way or another, while Sky Bet are offering 40-1 that he can land a historic one-two-three.
It could be an excellent opening day for Henderson, with Altior looking a sure thing for the Racing Post Arkle and Boylesports rate him a 20-1 poke to win the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Arkle and the Champion Hurdle.
Altior is also the banker leg of a special William Hill offer of 28-1 for him to win the Arkle, Might Bite to win the RSA and Top Notch to land the JLT for Henderson.
The days of Nicholls’ festival dominance with the likes of Master Minded, Big Buck’s, Denman and Kauto Star may be gone but Ditcheat is no ghost town and the champion trainer will be hoping for another big week.
Sky Bet’s 3-1 about him training three or more winners would have looked a steal back then, while Boylesports’ 16-1 about him being the festival’s leading trainer is another illustration of the sign of the times.
Dan Skelton is firmly established in his own right having flown the Ditcheat nest and Boylesports have priced up a match bet between the pair, with Nicholls evens to train the most winners, Skelton 7-2 and a tie at 6-4.
If Nicholls is to have a good week though, his number one jockey Sam Twiston-Davies would be likely to benefit and the rider widely touted as a future champion is a 16-1 chance with Bet365 to be the festival’s top jockey.
Two of his best chances appear to be Politologue in the JLT Novices’ Chase and Wonderful Charm in the Foxhunters’ Chase. William Hill go 9-2 for the pair to place in those races.
Other intriguing bets
Away from the UK’s big three trainers, firms have come up with plenty more specials, perhaps none as creative as Ladbrokes’ Altior v Douvan time special.
Nicky Henderson does not seem tempted to do too much too young with Altior by allowing him to tackle Douvan in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
However, Ladbrokes are offering 8-11 that the Arkle will be won in the fastest time or evens that the Champion Chase winner will get round quicker.
If Douvan does oblige at very short odds in the Champion Chase, he will hand owner Rich Ricci at least one winner for the week and Betfair make the American a 9-1 chance to come out on top in the rat race and be the festival’s most successful owner.
JP McManus is the short looking 2-7 favourite in that market, with Gigginstown House Stud at 100-30, Graham Wylie at 16-1 and Messrs Munir and Souede at 66-1.