Cheltenham Festival News
|Wednesday 12th February 2014|
Acceptors for the Five Main Championship Races
All the big favourites for the five major Cheltenham Festival contests remained in contention after the acceptors were revealed today.
The £400,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle on the opening day, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 11 has 11 entries going forward. Defending champion Hurricane Fly, the winner in both 2011 and 2013, heads the contenders and is one of six Irish-trained horses still engaged.
According to Timeform, the main threat to the Willie Mullins-trained superstar is his undefeated stable companion Annie Power, who has 1lb to spare on weight-adjusted ratings. The Halifax-based organization rate Hurricane Fly 184, with Annie Power on 185p. Which race Annie Power will contest at Cheltenham Festival 2014 has still to be decided as she is also in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and has other options.
Mullins also has another unbeaten possible runner, Un De Sceaux (169P), and Thousand Stars (174) in the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
Wednesday, March 12, is Ladies Day and features the £350,000 BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase. Heading the 17 confirmations for the two-mile chase is the great Sprinter Sacre, who is bidding to bounce back to his best after being pulled up in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park in December, following which he was found to have an irregular heartbeat.
Timeform shows the Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old, the imperious 19-length winner in 2013, is clearly the one to beat at his best with a rating of 203p, 22lb clear of Sire De Grugy (181+).
Sire De Grugy, trained by Gary Moore, won the Desert Orchid Chase and has also recorded Grade One victories this season in the BetVictor Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park on December 7 and Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 18.
Cue Card (191) is rated 9lb clear of his closest rival Dynaste (182) by Timeform, should his trainer Colin Tizzard decide to attempt a repeat victory in the Ryanair Chase with his stable star. A total of 39 contenders go forward in the chase over two mile and five furlong, including 18 from Ireland. Last Instalment (180), winner of the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup , is rated the best of the Irish-trained contingent on 180 by Timeform.
Big Buck’s may have been beaten narrowly into third on his long-awaited return to action in the Grade Two galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, January 25, but is the one to beat according to Timeform as he goes for a remarkable fifth victory in the three-mile Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Timeform rate the 11-year-old at 187, 2lb clear of Annie Power who is on 185p. Quevega, also trained by Willie Mullins, is rated third-best on 181 but is more likely to attempt a sixth consecutive victory in the Grade Two OLBG Mares Hurdle on Champion Day.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Big Buck’s, is also responsible for the next best of the British-trained contenders – Zarkandar (176) and Celestial Halo (174). In total, 24 entries remain engaged in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
The £550,000 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the highlight of The Festival and 26 horses go forward for the chase over extended three and a quarter miles on Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 14. Cue Card (191) is also top-rated with Timeform for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, 1lb clear of last year’s hero Bobs Worth (190).
Paul Nicholls, the most successful current trainer in the Blue Riband of chasing with four wins, is responsible for the third-best rated Silviniaco Conti (187), while Timeform makes Last Instalment (180) the best of the remaining eight Irish-trained entries.
The next acceptance stage for all five of the main Championship contests at The Festival is now at the five/six-day confirmation stage, when horses can also be added as a supplementary entry.