Cheltenham Festival Preview

Pubs around Ireland will be packed to the rafters this week for the most eagerly anticipated racing meeting of the year, the Cheltenham festival.

The highly anticipated Champion Hurdle will take place on Tuesday, when defending champion Punjabi will be faced with an array of young new talent. The bookies have Go Native and Solwhit as favourites, as JP McManus’ Binocular was forced to pull out with a muscle problem.

Wednesday sees the festival take a distinctly Irish turn for the St. Patrick’s Day races. The feature race, the Queen Mother Champion Chase will see Master Minded going for a hat-trick – a feat no horse has ever achieved before.

Paul Nicholl’s seven year-old has not been in top form of late, so Kalahari King is one horse which is being tipped as a possible obstacle standing in the way of his third on-the-trot win.

Ladies day will fall on Thursday, with the highly anticipated best dressed award which will see the lucky winner taking home a brand new Alpha Romeo Mito. As well as this coveted award, the day will also lend itself to a charity race which will raise money for Cancer Research UK.

The main race of the day, the World Hurdle, will once again see a defending champion heavily fancied to repeat. Big Bucks looks a good bet to win again, although sentimental racing fans would love to see the great veteran War of Attrition triumph.

The most celebrated day of the racing calendar falls on the Friday with the arrival of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. All eyes will be on the mouth-watering clash between both Paul Nicholls horses, Denman and Kauto Star, who between them have won the last three Gold Cups.

To add to the hype, the two chasers will be ridden by the two leading jockeys of the moment. Ruby Walsh, who was given first choice, decided to go with defending champion Kauto Star, leaving AP McCoy as the obvious choice for Denman.

Imperial Commander has been tipped as the most likely upset for the two front runners. Despite such rumblings, and the impressive return to form of Denman, Kauto Star is still expected to become only the third horse ever to achieve the status of a three-time Gold Cup winner.

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