Heritage and tradition is something that horseracing can boast by the bucket load and the highlight of the National Hunt season that takes place this week is no different.
Sports bettors, no matter what, should set the Cheltenham Festival aside and although the Derby, Grand National, and Royal Ascot are just as prestigious there literally isn’t a week like this one.
From today’s StanJames Champion Hurdle, all the way through to Friday’s totesport Gold Cup the crème of talent on the National Hunt circuit will have gathered to forget themselves in the tranquil surroundings of the Cotswold hills. Those attending will be pleased to see the sun beaming over the course after early rumours of snow and after leaving their Irish friend back at home in the basement they’ll be looking to make some money. It is the busiest week for bets on the entire calendar after all.
Over the four days, there are 27 races in all, every one anticipated as if a new season of award-winning drama The Wire – you wait for it all year and then it’s gone in a flash.
Champions come back here year after year to try to defend their titles, and later on in the week the battle between last year’s Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander, and the Paul Nicholls trained pair of Kauto Star and Denman will be very intriguing.
Today’s card has already been largely overshadowed by Champion Hurdle favorite Binocular being withdrawn by trainer Nicky Henderson, something that cost punters but there are 11 other runners in the race.
The favorites are likely to be Hurricane Fly, ridden by the black-eyed Ruby Walsh, and the Phillip Hobbs trained Menorah, who is unbeaten on this track. Peddlers Cross might also be an outside bet worth watching.
The battle between two of the most highly regarded trainers in racing, Nicholls and Henderson, should also not be underestimated and today their horses will face off in two of the day’s races.
Today’s curtain raiser, the StanJames Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, pits Henderson’s Spirit Son and Sprinter Sacre against the Nicholls trained Al Ferof. The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy also gives us a battle between Nicholls’ Ghizao, on the other side of the field Henderson’s Finian’s Rainbow.