Cheltenham Festival 2014: Pick of the Week Ahead

Peter FryersFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2014


It's one of the highlights of the British racing calendar and one of the great sporting events of the year.

Cheltenham starts Tuesday, heralding spring, and while some high-profile withdrawals have forced punters to think again, an exciting week of first-class National Hunt racing beckons all the same.

Here is our daily preview for the week ahead.



In the day’s big race, the Champion Hurdle, all eyes will once again be on Hurricane Fly, who won here 12 months ago.

Some might look to last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner, Our Conor, as a potential threat to Fly, and that could well be the case, as he has been knocking on the door for some time.  

Although the Dessie Hughes-trained runner has finished behind Hurricane Fly twice already this season, both defeats came back in Ireland over the winter. With this week’s improved conditions, he is expected to close the gap in class to the legendary, but ageing Fly. Fly, though, surely still has enough left to claim this one last time.

Later on this afternoon, Shotgun Paddy goes in the 16.40, while in the Arkle Chase at 2.05, it’s a toss-up between Champagne Fever and Rock on Ruby, with the latter, the second favourite, the pick of the two.



Sky Sports

You don’t have to be an intellectually superior detective to see the value in following Red Sherlock in Wednesday’s novice hurdle.

Unbeaten in his last six starts, the David Pipe runner looks like a worthwhile backing, given his Cheltenham pedigree—he is the son of the magnificent mare Lady Cricket—even if he is slightly unfavoured in comparison to current race favourite Faugheen.

Wednesday’s feature race is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, although it is still recovering from the withdrawal of last year’s superb winner, the much-loved Sprinter Sacre.

Sprinter’s absence clears the way instead for Captain Conan or, as is more likely, the Gary Moore-trained Sire De Grugy, who has been making the most from his rival’s enforced rest so far this season.



Paul Nicholls' Al Ferof goes nose to nose with pre-race favourite Benefficient in what is a very open Champion Chase.

Although Al has tired over distance recently, this is a shorter ride which could see him do very well indeed.

Elsewhere, the much-fancied and thankfully-fit-again Paul Nicholls Big Buck and Annie Power go to battle in the World Hurdle, with the former going for a fifth victory here, although so far, the early money has landed on Annie.



Claret Cloak has the opportunity to justify the decision to forgo Tuesday’s Arkle Chase in order to compete in Friday's Grand Annual and is fully expected to do so on the festival’s closing day.

Bobs Worth
Bobs WorthDaily Record

Later on, bringing the festival to its climax is the Gold Cup, where it should be a straight-up choice between Silviniaco Conti and Bobs Worth, with Bob being the one to beat having never previously lost here.