With the jump season in full swing, gamblers and racing fanatics alike have their minds and betting slips dominated by March’s Cheltenham Festival. But there is a full month of racing action between now and then, so here are three top quality meetings where canny punters can place a smart wager and come out on top.
Irish Gold Cup
From 3rd to 4th February, the racing world gathers for the Dublin festival. There are five grade one races and a €1.5 million prize pot, but it is the Irish Gold Cup that will attract the big bets. The pundits at Twitter site Racing Tips & News have been offering their tips for the day’s action in a meeting that is certain to be a key indicator for what is to come at Cheltenham. The smart money for the biggest prizes? Their advice is to look no further than Our Duke.
The Irish Grand National winner has not competed since coming in last at the Down Royal’s Champion Chase almost three months ago. From there, he underwent emergency surgery for a spinal injury. To come straight back into the action and win the Gold Cup sounds like the stuff of fairytales, but such is the bookmakers’ faith in the eight year old that he was immediately made 3/1 favourite the moment he was confirmed as a runner.
Road to Respect is at 7/2, and keep a close eye on Coney Island, a horse which experts are tipping as an outside shot for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
The Ascot Chase is probably the biggest race at the historic track outside Royal Ascot, and is viewed as a trial run for Cheltenham. Again, the talk is dominated by a possible fairytale winner, the indomitable crowd favourite, Cue Card.
Narrow defeat in Boxing Day’s King George VI Chase to stablemate Thistlecrack did nothing to dampen the 11 year old’s enthusiasm. Although he will run at Cheltenham one last time before retiring later in the year, even his die hard fans have to admit that a Gold Cup win is going to be a bridge too far. He has a real shout at Ascot glory, though, and you could not imagine a more popular winner.
Those seeking an interesting each way shot could do far worse than to back Shantou Flyer. He impressed on his last run out at Cheltenham, and while this will be a step up, he is a competitor with heart and bottle. At 20/1, it is worth a few pounds of anyone’s money.
Medieval Day at Wetherby
Wetherby on 3rd February offers a complete escape from all the talk of Cheltenham. Amidst re-enactments of the Battle of Towton, fought ten miles from the racecourse in 1461, Medieval Day brings new meaning to the phrase “old fashioned racing.”
The big event is the Totepool Towton Novices’ Chase, won last year by everyone’s favourite member of racing royalty, Tom Scudamore. He overcame a rocky start to win on 13/8 favourite Fingerontheswitch. This year’s runners are yet to be confirmed, but it is an event that Scudamore is unlikely to want to miss.