The Cheltenham Festival is creeping ever closer, and from the moment the runners were announced in mid January, the tipsters and bookmakers have had a clear view on who are the favourites for the showcase races.
The Champions Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Cheltenham Cup itself have all had odds-on favourites from the word go, in the shape of Buveur D’Air, Altior and Might Bite respectively.
This weekend at Newbury, one of those horses is going to either have its status confirmed with a comfortable win, or in the alternative, the odds for the Queen Mother Champion Chase could go into meltdown.
Tips from the experts
The racing world has been impatient to get a look at Altior. The horse has an astonishing record of eleven straight wins, but has not been seen in action since Sandown last April, having been sidelined by injury. Given that he is something of an unknown quantity, it is a testament to his inherent quality and ability that the bookmakers’ odds for Cheltenham are so short.
Tipsters at Bettingpro.com.au have been preparing their Saturday horse racing tips and are certain that all eyes will be on Altior this weekend. If he wins, they say, both trainer Nicky Henderson and the bookmakers in general will be proven right. If he doesn’t, however, they predict a potentially huge swing in the betting odds, and a possible new favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. This will be in the shape of the Willie Mullins trained Min, who has already shortened to 5/2.
Will he really race?
Of course, there is a third option, which is that Altior will not actually race at Newbury at all. Henderson caveated the plan to run him with the condition “as long as the ground is suitable.” With only days left to decide, he tantalisingly told reporters: “I think he is going to go but I am not going to promise.”
In the horse racing world, no news is not necessarily good news. If Altior goes to Cheltenham without any sort of trial run, expect the punters to start having second thoughts, and the odds on Min pulling off a victory to shorten still further.
Despite the uncertainty, Altior is the clear favourite to win on Saturday, with most bookmakers offering odds around the 4/6 on mark. Of the other runners, there are two that are in with a realistic chance of an upset. Paul Nicholls’ Politologue and Colin Tizzard’s Fox Norton will provide the stiffest competition. They are currently quoted at 5/2 and 3/1 respectively.
Both are also set to run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, and if one of them beats Altior fair and square, it will be intriguing to see how the bookies react.
One thing is for sure, there has seldom been so much resting on what would otherwise be just another race day at Newbury, and the eyes of the world will be watching every development with keen interest.