In celebration of the 2018 Cheltenham festival, the racecourse wanted to look back on our connections here at Newcastle in relation to this year’s festival runners. With punters nationwide sharpening up their form focus as the biggest four days of racing starts. With only 28 winners over the 4 days and 1684 runners declared for the festival, it will be as competitive as ever making trainers, owners, jockeys and punters dreams come true. Over the four days we will look at both hurdles and chasing connections and report on their current odds, connections to Newcastle and if anything was said regarding our Cheltenham preview night. Cheltenham’s current going for day one is Heavy, however it is set to dry up as the week continues.
Horse: Buveur D'Air,
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Our most prolific winner this season must be Nicky Henderson Buveur D'Air. The hot favourite for the Champion Hurdle at 4/7 is set to maintain his crown. Buveur D’Air took part in this season’s Fighting fifth and eased past the competition three furlongs out, labouring in the last to win 3 and a half lengths in front of two-time Fighting Fifth winner Irving. The Champion was mentioned in Tuesdays night Cheltenham Preview special, where the panel all agreed it will be his to lose on softish ground, which is forecasted for day one of the festival.
Horse: Identity Thief
Trainer: Henry De Bromhead
Identity Thief was the winner of the 2015 fighting fifth. Back to hurdles this season and heading for the champion hurdle for the second time, coming 6th in race 2016. For the 2016-17 season he stepped his game to chasing and had a flying start, but unfortunately didn’t last for the Gigginstown gelding. Reverting to hurdles and slowly progressing he is currently 66/1. There was no mention of his chances at the preview night.
Horse: Wicklow Brave
Trainer: W P Mullins
Wickilow Brave was 3rd to Identity Thief in the 2015 fighting fifth for W. P. Mullins. Back from the flat, he is entered straight for the champion hurdle at 11/1. The panel suggested his best form is on good ground and with the going heavy this could be a danger to him. The horse was built for speed and with it being heavy the pace will be a lot slower and more challenging, a real stamina test. But the punters are still backing the 9-year-old.
Horse: Apple's Jade
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
The Mares’ hurdle champion is set again for the race by team Elliott. This outstanding mare came second by a nose to Irving in the 2016 fighting fifth, as well as nearly being taken down by Petit Mouchoir near the 3rd last. She did extremely well to find second and was ahead if not for Irving winning on the nod. Since then she has progressed into a true winner, winning 6/7 races at both 2 miles 4 furlongs and 3 mile grade ones. She has beaten against the likes of Vroum Vroum Mag, Nichols Canyon and Supasundae. Currently 4/7 and rightly so, the panel all agreed it will be hers to lose and biggest danger could be La Bague Au Roi.
Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Horse: Act Of Valour
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Act Of Valour a useful flat recruit won his very first try over obstacles at Newcastle, winning the Jigsaw Sports Branding Juvenile Hurdle on fighting fifth day. He is joint-favourite for the Cheltenham handicap at 7/1. Since his win at Newcastle, he’s had another two goes over hurdles, placing only once at Musselburgh last time out. The Nicholls yard over the years have done well in this race and are wanting to continue their success with Act Of Valour.
Horse: Native River
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the most-anticipated events in the British sporting calendar, the climax of the entire Jump racing season. Colin Tizard’s, Native River has come leaps and bounds since his second ever race over obstacles ran here at Newcastle. Winning the "The French Furze" Novices' Hurdle coming 2 and ¾ lengths in front of Brian Ellison's Gold Cup contender Definitely Red. For this year’s Gold Cup, he is currently the second favourite at 4/1 behind fav Might Bite. He has good form in the race coming 3rd in last year’s gold cup, the panel agreed that last year’s performance was no fluke and with heavy ground forecast it could be in his favour. The only concern was his very light campaign this season, but this could play to his strengths as his only run this season showed he was up for the task.
Horse: Definitely Red
Trainer: Brian Ellison
Although the Gold Cup contender has never had much luck at Newcastle, he definitely has strong claims for Northern trainer Brian Ellison in this year’s Gold Cup. Red came first in Cotsworld trail beating the likes of American and Bristol De Mai by 8 lengths in soft ground. His current odds are 10/1 to bring the cup northbound and with the ground set to be soft, if not heavy this price could drop even more the panel agreed on, but would still need to be on top form to compete.
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
Horse: Forest Bihan
Trainer: Brian Ellison
Forest Bihan is entered for the very last race of the festival. The 7-year-old seems to like it here in the northeast winning 2/3 races at Newcastle only getting beat by waiting patiently in 2016. His best form seems to be on good ground, and for that reason he is currently 20/1. His last run was at Newcastle on the All-Weather Jumpers Bumper contest thanks to storm Emma, making a last-minute race preparation for the spring season. Whereby all account he did look impressive in winning.
Ultima Handicap Chase
Horse: Beware The Bear
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Beware the Bare is a strong stayer on soft and showed that when winning the At the Races Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle, beating the likes of Bishops Road, Yala Enki, Wakanda all that have shown great form since that race. Jeremiah McGrath will be riding the 16/1 shot for Mr. Henderson and if he jumps well, will have strong claims to the race.
We have racing on tonight, a Spring Twilight fixture on the All Weather with 7 flat races being presented for after day one of the Festival. Gates open at 16:00 and the first race is at 17:45. Here at the Racecourse, we wish you all a successful and enjoyable week of racing.