Pros and Cons of Big Race Favorites at 2019 Cheltenham Festival

International
Cheltenham Racecourse in England, site of the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. ("Cheltenham Racecourse" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06)

The Cheltenham Festival becomes the center of the horse racing universe for four days every March, and it’s fast approaching.

Championship races come thick and fast throughout the Festival and there are plenty of chances to have a bet if a horse catches your eye. In this year’s main events at Cheltenham, what are the pros and cons that come with supporting market leaders? Let’s take a look.

Buveur D’Air Challenged Like Never Before in Champion Hurdle

There can be no doubt that the winner of the last two editions of the Champion Hurdle, Buveur D’Air, is the horse everyone else has to beat. The industry may not appreciate just how special the Nicky Henderson-trained, John P. McManus-owned gelding is until he’s retired.

As he goes for a Champion Hurdle hat-trick, Buveur D’Air is preparing to emulate greats over the smaller obstacles like Istabraq, See You Then, and Persian War. As a standout 2-1 favorite with Betfair, he looks like a value play given his back-to-back successes in the race; however, he does face the prospect of carrying more weight than some of his opponents.

Altior ("Altior" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06)

The playing field is no longer level for Buveur D’Air: His stable companion Verdana Blue just bested him in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, but has missed her intended prep run. Apple’s Jade and Laurina are serious threats from Ireland too, so the favorite is under siege from the ladies.

Altior a Champion Chase Banker but Very Short

Another Henderson inmate is the awesome Altior. Unbeaten in 17 starts over hurdles and fences going into the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, he has developed a formidable reputation as the undisputed best two-mile chaser.

Altior was able to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase last year despite a last-minute lameness scare. Opposition has been running scared from him ever since.

He looks almost certain to retain his title, but is a best-price 4-9 with most bookmakers to do so. Altior looks sure to feature in offers from Cheltenham free bets 2019 to bettors on the Festival.

Paisley Park has Presence in Stayers'

The Stayers’ Hurdle on day three of the meeting might just be the race of the week.

Emma Lavelle has done a terrific job with Paisley Park, stepping him up in class to Grade 1 level. Victories in the JLT Long Walk at Ascot and then the Cleeve Hurdle have left him the 2-1 favorite for Stayers success with Ladbrokes.

Presenting Percy Swerved a Lot of Targets Before Gold Cup

RSA Chase winner Presenting Percy remains fancied for Cheltenham Gold Cup success this year, but connections have avoided running him on quick ground. That has meant Pat Kelly’s stable star has missed a number of intended runs in races like the Savills Chase and Irish Gold Cup.

Presenting Percy heads the Gold Cup betting at 11-4 with BetVictor and it’s difficult to say whether a light campaign will benefit him. Clan Des Obeaux, Kemboy, and last year’s gallant winner Native River are among those who have claims.

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