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Cheltenham Festival 2013 

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Cheltenham Championship Contests Take Shape
13/02/13

There is now just under four weeks until The Festival 2013 gets underway and the countdown intensifies today with the unveiling of the latest acceptors for the five Grade One championship contests following the February 12 scratchings deadline.

Hurricane Fly
© Caroline Norris

Hurricane Fly

The Festival begins on Champion Day, Tuesday, March 12, when the highlight is the £400,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle. A total of 22 horses remain in the extended two-mile contest with Timeform making the 2011 winner Hurricane Fly, who is unbeaten in four starts since finishing third in 2012, its pick on weight-adjusted ratings with a mark of 184 and is a strong favourite in the Cheltenham festival betting.

Last year's winner Rock On Ruby also remains engaged and is rated second best on 182 with Timeform, while Zarkandar, successful in the StanJames.com International at Cheltenham in December, is on 178+.

Cristal Bonus
© Racehorse Photos

Cristal Bonus
Ladies Day on Wednesday, March 13, features the £350,000 Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase. The nine entries going forward are headed by the Nicky Henderson-trained Sprinter Sacre, who has looked invincible over fences and was imperious in taking last season's Racing Post Arkle Chase at The Festival. The seven-year-old is rated 194p with Timeform for the two-mile championship, 9lb clear of his stablemate Finian's Rainbow,who won the race in 2012. Sizing Europe, the 2011 hero, is on 183.

St Patrick's Thursday, March 14, includes both the £275,000 Ryanair Chase over two miles and five furlongs, and the three-mile £275,000 Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

The 27 entries remaining in the Ryanair Chase include recent Irish Hennessy Gold Cup victor Sir Des Champs, who is on 185+ with Timeform, and last year's Sporting Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Finian's Rainbow (185). Sizing Europe (183) has also been left in the Ryanair Chase as an option, while the 2012 winner Riverside Theatre is on 179 and Albertas Run, successful in 2010 and 2011, is rated 176 by Timeform.

Quevega
© Caroline Norris

Quevega
Quevega has won at the last four Festivals, taking the OLBG Mares' Hurdle on each occasion. The door has been left open for her to take on the boys this year as she features among 33 acceptors for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, as against 23 acceptors at this stage a year ago. Timeform gives the nine-year-old mare a weight-adjusted rating of 182+, 4lb clear of Oscar Whisky, with Monksland next on 174.

Of course the highlight on Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 15, is the £550,000 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup for which 24 hopefuls go forward. Three out of the four top-rated horses with Timeform are trained by Nicky Henderson - last year's RSA Chase scorer Bobs Worth (186p), Finian's Rainbow (185) and Long Run (184), the 2011 hero who put up a gutsy performance when taking the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Sir Des Champs is on 185+, while Paul Nicholls, the most successful current trainer in the race, has two entries remaining headed by the progressive Silviniaco Conti (183+).

 

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