For horse racing fans throughout the Irish diaspora, there’s a certain four-day long event that brings plenty of excitement.
The Cheltenham Festival, which starts from Tuesday March 12, has 27 races and well over £3.5m in prize money up for grabs for the hundreds of entrants. Over 200,000 visitors, many of which are coming from Ireland, are expected to head to the event.
It’s estimated that as many as 10,000 visitors from Ireland will head to the course for the four days, and no wonder. Every year, one of the days (Thursday March 14 this year) is celebrated as St Patrick’s Day in honour of the large Irish contingent including fans, jockeys and trainers, while some of the biggest races in the sport are held at the Festival.
Oscar the favourite? We’ll drink to that
One of the biggest races of the Cheltenham Festival is the World Hurdle. Here, as many as 56 horses could enter the race, making for an exciting spectacle. With so many riders in one field, it might seem hard to pick a winner, but it seems that a few names can be picked out as contenders for the title.
The favourite withLadbrokes is Oscar Whisky, who with odds of just 4/1 should be seen as a major threat for the title. He has won three of his last four races and came second in his most recent outing at Cheltenham in the Cleeve Hurdle. Guided by B J Geraghty, he has every chance of winning the big prize.
Quevega for magnificent seven?
His main rival will probably be the in-form Quevega, who is a 7/1 shot. The French mare has won an astonishing six races in a row, although she hasn’t raced since April last year. Ruby Walsh is expected to ride Quevega, and has plenty of experience of winning big races here in the past.
Outsiders to make bid for glory
Further down the field, Monksland, another Irish entrant is at 6/1, and won his last race at Leopardstown back in December. Another possible contender is the 8/1 shot Bog Warrior, who has won his last three races, while Peddler’s Cross at 10/1 is worth a look. However, he failed to win any of his last three outings, finishing 8th in his last appearance at Cheltenham in the Novices’ Chase.
With a fortnight to go before Cheltenham gets underway, all the trainers and jockeys involved will be doing everything they can to make sure their horse wins. As for the fans, they can sit back, take in the famous atmosphere and have a cheeky bet or two!