2015 has arrived, and with it the promise of a year full of incredible horse races. For many fans who take a betting interest, the UK will provide the first major events worth wagering on. Among these events, it’s the Cheltenham Festival that leads the way. Slated for the four-day stretch between March 10-13, the festival includes its usual array of highly competitive racing and jumping events, complete with numerous National Hunt contests. So for those looking to place bets on the outcomes, here are some of the big name horses to keep track of in the months leading up to Cheltenham.
A 6-year-old out of Ireland trained by W.P. Mullins, Faugheen has a strong chance to make the first major statement of Cheltenham 2015 by winning the opening day’s Champion Hurdle event. Faugheen did not race in the event a year ago but has eight wins in eight National Hunt races run. That’s good enough to be the current favorite for the Champion Hurdle. Betfair’s early odds on the races have Faugheen listed at 6/4 to win the race, ahead of The New One and Jezki, who finished third and first, respectively, in 2014.
Sprinter Sacre may be the name to watch at the 2015 festival after missing the previous year’s event because of health reasons. No stranger to avid racing fans, this 8-year-old champion won the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2013 and will look to regain that title this year. According to London 24, the horse’s comeback is a testament to his legacy and ability that he’s already being considered a favorite over last year’s Champion Chase winner, Sire de Grugy. No doubt Sprinter Sacre will receive a warm welcome by the Cheltenham crowds.
Sire de Grugy
We just covered Sire de Grugy as the defending champion at the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Despite Sprinter Sacre’s position as the early betting favorite, though, don’t discount this horse as a contender. This may be the field that will require the most analysis for those placing bets, as strong form for Sire de Grugy and a shaky comeback for Sprinter Sacre in the coming months could flip the favorite status quickly.
More Of That
More Of That is a runaway favorite at 4/1 to win the World Hurdle event that headlines Cheltenham’s third day of competition, so naturally he’s one to watch. Given that the second favorite (Zarkandar) is all the way back at 10/1, it looks as if this is expected to be a straightforward win for defending champ More Of That. However, despite a strong showing in 2014, More Of That is not a traditional dominant champion. Don’t discount Annie Power (17/1) as an intriguing long shot. The Independent has a reminder that it was these two who fought for the title a year ago.
Fourth at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2014—Lord Windermere won—Silviniaco Conti will look to win the event in 2015 as a strong favorite. He currently has 3/1 odds to pull off the win, but this is certainly one favorite to keep a close eye on as the Gold Cup field is full of tough competitors. Lord Windermere will defend the title, and Bobs Worth, Holywell, and Shutthefrontdoor are also among the seasoned champions competing.
With a few months to go, much can still happen to shift the betting odds, and new favorites may emerge. But these are the names for betting fans to track in the remaining time leading up to the Cheltenham Festival.