With the Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, we’re casting our eye over six of the favourites at this year’s meeting.
All six of our picks head the market in their respective races. But we think only three will go on to justify their status come to the start of the Festival on Tuesday 12th March 2019.
Do you agree with our choices? Read below to find out…
Sir Erec (Triumph Hurdle)
It’s hard not to be impressed with Sir Erec. Joseph O’Brien’s charge landed a 28-runner maiden on debut and followed it up with a 6l win in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Not only did he beat stablemate Gardens Of Babylon that day, he also reaffirmed his advantage over Triumph rival and former scorer on the flat in France, Tiger Tap Tap.
He has the measure of his competitors, and his trainer has a history in the race to boot. O’Brien is largely credited for Ivanovich Gorbatov’s shock Triumph success in 2016, alongside father Aidan.
All of that makes Sir Erec hard to ignore. The four-year-old boasts pace and stamina in abundance and will be a tough nut to crack over the 2m 1f distance for the in-form trainer.
Champ (Ballymore Novices’ Chase)
With a name like Champ, you better be good. So fair play to Nicky Henderson’s raider, because the horse named after legendary jockey AP McCoy has been every bit a champion so far.
The seven-year-old has excelled over sticks this term, following up a comfortable win in the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle with a taking performance in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Grade 1 level.
The form from that success at Kempton has worked out exceptionally well in a race which included Getaway Trump, Kateson and Brewin’upastorm.
Champ has pace to burn so expect a strong finish as the trainer bids to win the Ballymore for the second time in his career.
Paisley Park (Stayers’ Hurdle)
Paisley Park ticks all the boxes. He’s a course and distance winner, he’s beaten nearly all of the market principals with plenty in hand and he can do it on ground ranging from good to soft.
Our only question mark was how he’d fare against 2018 winner Penhill. But Willie Mullins’ charge is out of the Festival, which should mean the Stayers’ is Paisley Park’s to lose.
Emma Lavelle’s raider has already won over course and distance in the Cleeve Hurdle. It’d be no surprise at all if he hacked up in similar style against at Prestbury Park.
Buveur D’Air (Champion Hurdle)
We’re not afraid of making big calls here at Ladbrokes News. And they don’t come much bigger than suggesting dual-Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air might not be up to it in 2019.
Ok, that’s not quite fair. But stablemate Verdana Blue showed that Nicky Henderson’s favourite isn’t unbeatable when nailing him in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The eight-year-old hasn’t exactly been facing key rivals in his prep-runs, either. Contrast that with Apple’s Jade, who has been blowing away decent horses, and we have a race on our hands.
Gordon Elliott’s raider showed she can do it over 2m with a 16l success in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Now the wonder-mare will lay down the gauntlet to the defending champ at Cheltenham.
Defi Du Seuil (JLT Novices’ Chase)
Defi Du Seuil might have loved it over sticks at Cheltenham, but he’s 0-2 at Prestbury Park over fences. That has to be a worry ahead of the 2019 JLT Novices’ Chase over 2m 4f.
Add to that the six-year-old is very closely matched with market rival Lostintranslation – Colin Tizzard’s charge finished ahead in the Dipper Chase – and it’s enough to give us itchy feet.
Both of the market leaders are capable of winning the race. With no standout form between the pair, though, this could be one to looking further down the betting.
Presenting Percy (Cheltenham Gold Cup)
Plenty would argue Presenting Percy is a worthy favourite for the Gold Cup. His 10l win over rival Monalee in the RSA Chase 12 months ago is hard to argue. But that’s just the thing.
That win was a year ago. His only appearance on the track since was a much-needed refresher over sticks rather than fences in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park in January.
It looks as though the favourite won’t get another run into him prior to the Gold Cup, which is a worry in our mind given the competitive nature of Cheltenham’s blue-ribbon event.
Clan Des Obeaux, Kemboy, Al Boum Photo and Bellshill are all viable alternatives with more runs under their belt this season who could upset the jolly.
Click here for all our 2019 Cheltenham Festival odds.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication