The 2017 Cheltenham Festival kicks off on Tuesday, four days of outstanding jump action with 28 races highlighted by top Group 1 races that include the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and World Hurdle.
The Cheltenham World Hurdle is now known as the Stayer’s Hurdle, a nearly three-mile test that was first run in 1912.
This year’s betting favorite for the Stayer’s Hurdle on Thursday will be Unowwhatimeanharry, who will be putting an eight-race winning streak on the line when he faces 20 foes.
He is trained by Harry Fry and will be ridden by Noel Fehily, who was aboard for four of his wins during the streak. Barry Geraghty rode the eight-year-old gelding in his last three starts.
His last start came here at Cheltenham on Jan. 28 where he won the Group 2 Cleve Handicap and he is now perfect in his three trips over the course.
The gelding is currently the solid betting favorite for the race at 888Sport at odds of 11-10.
The second choice in the early wagering at 888Sport is Vroum Vroum Mag at odds of 6-1. She has won 12 of her last 13 races, taking the Group 2 Doncaster Mare’s Hurdle on Jan. 28 at Doncaster over four foes.
Trained by W. P. Mullins, the mare won the Group 1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle here at Cheltenham last March.
After that it is anyone’s guess, as 888 Sport has Jezki, Nichols Canyon and Shaneshill all listed at 7-1.
Big Buck is the most famous of the Stayer’s Hurdle champions, taking the race in four consecutive years from 2009 to 2012.
Inglis Drive won the race three times, in 2005 and again in back to back years in 2007 and 2008.
Thistlecrack was a huge winner last year, drawing away to win by seven lengths in impressive fashion for trainer Colin Tizzard and jockey Tom Scudamore.
It is important to have a run over the course at Cheltenham. Of the last 22 winners of the race, 17 had run previously at the Cheltenham, Festival. In addition, eight of the last 10 winners of the race had previously won a Group 1 race.
Also on Thursday’s card is the Group 1 Ryanair Chase which drew 18 runners. The early betting favorite at 888Sport is Douvan at 7-4.
Douvan is trained by W.P. Mullins, and the gelding has won 14 races in a row. He won the Group 2 Cottage Chase at Punchestown in his most recent outing on Feb. 5.