Punters are getting excited about four days of top-class horse racing which starts on Tuesday with the Champion Hurdle
The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest meeting in the National Hunt calendar, with the anticipation now reaching fever pitch as horses, trainers, jockeys and spectators descend on Prestbury Park for what should be a thrilling spectacle.
Day One of the Festival takes place on Tuesday 11 March, with Hurricane Fly bidding to win a third Champion Hurdle having triumphed in 2011 and 2013, although the Irish raider faces very stiff opposition in the form of Our Conor, My Tent Or Yours and The New One.
Meanwhile, the World Hurdle on Thursday will see Big Buck’s attempting to win a fifth crown at the Festival although Annie Power has been declared for this race and the Irish are sure to be piling their cash on the mare enjoying her weight allowance and a magnificent victory to boot.
Nevertheless, trainer Paul Nicholls remains confident that his stable star can land the spoils, claiming that his charge is in “seriously good order”.
“If it had been a normal year, he’d have run at Newbury in November (Long Distance Hurdle) where we normally start the season off. I wanted him to have a hard race to see where we were with him – and if he was going to get to Cheltenham we needed a hard race.
“Sam Twiston-Davies did exactly as I wanted him to do – you ride a stayer like a stayer, you don’t ride a stayer like a sprinter – and he had the race won jumping the last, but just got tired.
“I walked the course that day just before we had all those thunderstorms and the ground from the back of the last to the winning post was virtually unraceable, and he just got tired.
“He’s had seven weeks since then. He’s bloomed, he looks fantastic and is a lot lighter.
“He had a good gallop at Exeter the other day and he’s schooled well. I’m very happy with him and the one thing he’ll enjoy is the drying ground.
“All his best wins have been on good or good to soft, so the omens are good with the weather, he looks great and I’m very much looking forward to the challenge of the race.”