Who are the favourites for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival?
The Cheltenham Festival is getting closer and closer. Here we take a look at who the favourites are for the 2018 Festival.
We’ll be focussing on the biggest races, which means the four Championship contests, plus one or two others. However, we’ll also have some information on the current favourites for all but the smallest races at the Festival.
On top of that we’ll consider how favourites have done in general at Cheltenham and their record in the feature clashes.
Whether you want to back a Festival favourite or a Cheltenham outsider, be sure to make the most of our offers. Our dedicated free bets page lists all the best freebies. We’ve also got a list of all the top Cheltenham offers for this year’s Festival.
Who are the favourites for the four feature races at Cheltenham?
Obviously we still have some way to go until the 2018 Festival. The countdown is most certainly well and truly on though. At the time of writing this very sentence there are 22 days until the 2018 Festival will get underway. In just over three weeks the famous Cheltenham roar will send off the runners in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Sorry, the point of all this countdown talk is that things will obviously change between now and the race you’re checking the favourite for actually starting. They will almost certainly change between now and you reading this feature.
As such, this is a really long way of saying that the odds quoted are correct at the time of this being published. Before you place any bets on this year’s Festival, be sure to check that a) the odds are correct, b) the horse you fancy is still alive (!) and c) it’s still running in the race you think it will win!
The Champion Hurdle is the big one on day one and is the third and final leg of the hurdling triple crown. As with all of the Festival’s big races, the list of previous winners is a list of equine greats. Hurricane Fly won this one twice, with See You Then and Istabraq two of the five triple victors. Who will join those great names in 2018?
The favourite right now Buveur D’Air, at best odds of 4/9 with a range of betting sites. Nicky Henderson’s Irish seven year old has nine wins and a third from 10 starts over hurdles. He has nine wins in a row, won the Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle last year, and is the defending champion.
In short, Buveur D’Air is sure to be one of the NAPs of the Festival for many. Faugheen is a distant second favourite at odds of 6/1 with My Tent Or Yours out at 10/1 with Coral and others.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
The Champion Chase is often the pick of the Festival action, at least for many racing fans. Badsworth Boy took this three years in a row from 1983 and is the only three-time winner. Greats like Moscow Flyer, Master Minded and the legendary Sprinter Sacre are among those to have won it twice.
Special Tiara won this one 12 months ago and is rated a 16/1 shot by William Hill to defend this prestigious title. Altior is the current favourite though, priced odds-on at just 8/11 by Betfair and others. Altior is ahead of min in the betting, with the French seven year old out at 3/1 with Boyles and Douvan 5/1 with the same firm.
We’re back to the hurdles for Thursday’s big race with the Stayers’ Hurdle, run over three miles, the feature contest of day three at the Cheltenham Festival. Big Buck’s and Ruby Walsh are the horse and jockey to hold the records in this one. The great pair teamed up to land this Championship race four years in a row between 2009 and 2012. Ruby also won last year on board Nichols Canyon, the horse sadly dying at the end of last year.
Looking at the betting for this year’s race and we have a far more open market than for the previous features. Sam Spinner is the favourite at odds of 11/2 (Betfair), with Apples Jade, Penhill, Yanworth and L’ami Serge just four of the horses priced at no more than 14/1.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
Friday’s feature race is THE National Hunt contest for many fans and the favourite for Gold Cup glory in 2018 is Might Bite (7/2 Betfred and others). This Irish gelding is nine years old and has won almost two thirds of his races to date. He won the RSA Chase 12 months ago and has got better since then so certainly seems a worthy favourite.
Can the Nicky Henderson star add his name to the roll of honour and join greats such as Kauto Star, Golden Miller and Best Mate? Behind him in the betting come Native River (13/2), 2017 Gold Cup champion Sizing John (7/1 Ladbrokes) and Our Duke (at 10/1).
Other Cheltenham Favourites for 2018
Cheltenham is a Festival packed with classy racing and it is unfair to only talk about the feature races. Over the four days we will see so many great horses, be they stars of the past, present or future.
Other key races to look out for on day one include the opening Supreme Novices’ and the Arkle. In the former the current favourite is Getabird at 9/4 with Coral and Ladbrokes. In the latter Footpad is the market leader at 11/8 with Betfair. The Mares’ Hurdle is also another hugely popular Grade One contest and the favourite for that one is Apples Jade, who is odds-on at 4/6.
The RSA Chase, won by many a future Gold Cup horse over the years, is another of Cheltenham’s huge races. Presenting Percy is the 10/3 favourite for that one, with Monalee a shade longer with most bookies.
The Ryanair Chase is, for many, the biggest contest aside from the four daily features. The shortest priced horse for that one is currently Un De Sceaux at odds of 3/1 with Hills and other bookies. Waiting Patiently is vying for favouritism but can be backed at odds as long as 36/5 on the exchanges.
The Triumph Hurdle gets things underway on the last day of the Festival. The favourite right now for that one is Apples Shakira at 3/1 (with Betfair Sportsbook once again). The last of our “next best” races is the always popular Albert Bartlett. This one was only introduced to the Festival card in 2005 and is quite an open contest looking at the current betting. Next Destination, Cracking Smart and Santini are all in the mix for the favourite’s tag at odds of between 6/1 and 8/1.
How do favourites fair at the Cheltenham Festival?
Assuming your interest in Cheltenham favourites is more than mere curiosity, it is of course worth asking how favourites get on at the Festival. Obviously this varies considerably by race, with some of the Festivals many races featuring huge fields and being something of a lottery.
We’re ignoring the handicaps and the big-field events here though and focusing on the major contests only. Hopefully assessing some trends can help you to a winner or two at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and a profit overall.
The Gold Cup
Let’s start with the Gold Cup – why not? The longest odds winner ever for this race was Norton’s Coin. You would have made some serious coin backing this one in 1990 – the odds were 100/1! The shortest odds for a winner were the 1/10 Arkle was sent off at in 1966.
Overall though the favourites have a very good record in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. They have won 1/3 of the previous races. Moreover, of the past 15 winners, only one (Lord Windermere in 2014) came from outside the top three in the betting. Over the last 15 years we have seen eight favourites win. That’s an impressive record, with winning odds ranging from just 8/11 (Best Mate in 2004) to 4/1 (Kicking King in 2005).
Looking back to day one, favourites have done somewhat less well in the Champion Hurdle. Whilst we have seen six winning favourites in the last 15 years, seven victors came from outside the top three in the betting. In the last 15 years we’ve had winners at odds of 33/1, 16/1, 22/1, 11/1 and 10/1. That said, including 2011 when Hurricane Fly won as the 11/4 favourite, we’ve had four winning jollies in seven years.
When it comes to day two’s Cheltenham Championship race, this is definitely another Festival clash where the cream rises to the top. Only twice in 36 years have we had a Champion Chase winner at double-digit odds. One of those was Special Tiara at 11/1 last year but in the past 15 years we have seen 11 winners at odds of 5/1 or lower. Six winning favourites may not be the strongest record, especially with half of those coming before 2010, but 11 of the last 15 have been in the top three of the betting at least.
Last but not least, let’s consider day three and the Stayers’ Hurdle. Again, unsurprisingly, this is a race where class tends to prevail. The stats could be said to be skewed somewhat by one or two horses but even so, the trends are clear. Big Buck’s, of course, won this four years in a row. He started the last three wins as the odds-on favourite, whilst fellow multiple winner Inglis Drever went off at just 11/8 in 2008. We’ve seen 12 favourites place at least over the past 15 years, with 13 winners in that time at odds no higher than 8/1.