While those outside of the UK and Ireland may have some knowledge of the Cheltenham Festival, it is perhaps not truly appreciated just how important it is within British racing circles.  It is the premier event in National Hunt racing, although the Grand National probably attracts more attention as an individual event.  The fact that it is simply referred to as The Festival tells you all you need to know about its standing among racing fans in the British Isles.

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Wagering this year is expected to be at an all-time record, with a projected £250 million ($350 million) to be bet.  Anticipation for Cheltenham is always intense, with trainers, jockeys  closely scrutinized in the run-up to the opening day on March 13.

Bookmakers are notoriously competitive too, offering plenty of free bet promotions and racing offers. You can see a list of the best offers at https://freebets.uk/cheltenham-festival-bets/

Champion Day kicks off the Festival.  It features four Grade 1 races, as well as three other high-quality contests.  The highlight is the Champion Hurdle, a race run just over 2 miles and featuring 8 hurdles.  Buveur D’Air was the 2017 champion and current race favorite at 1/2 (-200), but may face opposition from Faugheen at 6/1 (+600).  Other important races on Day 1 include the Supreme Novices Hurdle, the Arkle Chase and Mares’ Hurdle.

The second day of the Festival, often referred to as Ladies’ Day, is all about the Queen Mother Champion Chase, although there are six other competitive races. The Champion Chase has played a big role in shaping Cheltenham’s recent history and has seen some spectacular races in the past.  In 2018, Altior, currently priced at 5/4 (+125), is expected to add the race to his stellar resume, but Min at 3/1 (+300) has found his form again recently.   Other races to catch on Ladies’ Day include the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the RSA Chase.

A friendly rivalry between Irish and British is part of the Cheltenham magic.  The penultimate day of the Festival is named St. Patrick’s Thursday in honor of the Irish connections to Cheltenham.  But it’s not just an empty gesture, either:  Irish-trained horses took six out of the seven races on St Patrick’s Thursday last year.  The main event is the Stayers’ Hurdle, the premier long-distance hurdling event in British racing.  There is no heavy favorite, but many pundits fancy Sam Spinner at 9/2 (+450).  Day 3 also hosts the Ryanair Chase and JLT Novices’ Chase.

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The Festival concludes on March 16 with Gold Cup Day, named after the most important event of the week, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  It has seen legendary winners in the past, such as Arkle and five-time winner Golden Miller.  This year, most of the betting chatter has surrounded Might Bite, who won the King George VI Chase in December.  He is available at odds of 3/1 (+300), but the race can be notoriously tough on favorites, so there may be value in the some of the outsiders.  Other Grade 1 races on the final day include the JCB Triumph Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

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