What We Have Learned So Far in the UK and IRE National Hunt Season

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International horse racing

When most American racing fans are reflecting on the Breeders’ Cup and perhaps looking back on the year in racing, the national hunt season just starts getting underway in the UK and Ireland. Now, a couple months into the season we are started to get a picture of who is going to be the movers and shakers at events like the Grand National and Cheltenham Festival.

It is the latter, the Cheltenham Festival, that is on the minds of most trainers and jockeys, as the four-day spectacular (12th-15th March) has grown in stature to become the elite event in the national hunt season. Several interesting races that hold clues to the Festival have been already held over the last few weeks. Here are some of the interesting titbits:

Altior on song for Nicky Henderson

There is very little doubt that Altior is the best middle-distance chaser in the world right now and that shows up in the fact he is as low as 4/7 (Bet365) for the Champion Chase. He was impressive on his season debut at Sandown when taking the Tingle Creek Chase. Un De Sceaux gave him a bit of a scare, but, barring injury, he looks like the closest thing there is to a sure thing at Cheltenham.

 

Buveur D’Air also impressive in Fighting Fifth

If any jumps horse can rival Altior for imperiousness over the last few years, it’s stablemate Buveur D’Air. The 7-year-old is aiming for a third successive Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham 2019, and is priced at evens (William Hill) to do so. A brilliant performance in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle underlined those credentials.

Bristol De Mai’s brilliance comes with a caveat

One of the best races this season saw Bristol de Mai go up against Gold Cup contenders Might Bite, Thistlecrack and Native River in the Betfair Chase. Bristol De Mai blew them away, as he does to other opposition at Haydock Park in the past. The only issue is that form isn’t as hot away from Haydock. It’s a puzzler. Bristol De Mai is 20/1 with Betfair for the Gold Cup and, while he is erratic, you can get Cheltenham betting offers, like free bets, to back him. The perfect shot to nothing horse.

End of the dream for Faugheen?

Faugheen, for some the greatest hurdler of a generation, has had several ups and downs over the past couple of seasons. There was a hint of reinvention last April, with a stunning win in the Irish Champions Stayers’ Hurdle at Punchestown. His first run this season was thoroughly mediocre, finishing second in a field of horses who wouldn’t be anywhere near him at his peak. The question is: Has he still got one last great run in him? He is 12/1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle 2019 with Sky Bet and William Hill. Currently, however, BetVictor have put him at just 3/1 and favourite. It’s a measure of the respect that this horse is held in. If he does win, it will see the biggest cheer of the Festival.

Just who is Annamix?

Willie Mullins has apparently got another superstar on his hands with the 4-year-old French import Annamix. The only problem is that a pelvic injury has meant we have yet to get a look at Annamix, except for a lone second-place finish in France. However, that hasn’t stopped the bookies from putting the horse in as the favourite – around 9/1 with several betting companies – for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The horse must look exceptional in the training yard.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 16-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He cashed on the NHC Tour for 2018 with a 19th overall finish. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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