I can almost hear the Cheltenham Roar already, as the prestigious four day festival nears and punters pick apart the declarations in search for the best tips for Cheltenham. Let us take a trip down memory lane at one of the more noteworthy thoroughbred horses to take part over the years.

Hardy Eustace, owned by Laurence Byrne and trained throughout his  career by Dessie Hughes at The Curragh, Co. Kildare, is best remembered for his victories in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2004 and 2005.

However, the Archway gelding made his first trip across the Irish Sea in 2003, beating the subsequently disqualified Coolnagorma by 1½ lengths in the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle. He was subsequently beaten out of sight by Iris’s Gift in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and, despite winning a 30-runner maiden at Navan in October, was beaten on his first four starts over hurdles in 2003/04, including once at odds of 1/4.

By the time he lined up, in first-time blinkers, alongside Rooster Booster and company in the Champion Hurdle, he was probably, justifiably, a 33/1 chance. However, in the race itself he barely saw another rival and, despite being joined by Rooster Booster at the last flight, drew away again on the run-in to win by 5 lengths. He returned to defend his title in 2005 and, once again, made most of the running, holding on gamely to beat Harchibald and Brave Inca by a neck and the same

He never won at Cheltenham Festival again, but finished third in the Champion Hurdle in 2006, fourth in the Champion Hurdle in 2007, twelfth in the World Hurdle in 2008 and ninth – as a 12-year-old, at 100/1 – in the Champion Hurdle in 2009. When he was retired later that year, he’d won 12 of his 41 starts over hurdles and just over £1 million in total prize money.

In the Betway Sprint Handicap (3.05) at Southwell on Tuesday, Foolaad has returned to action at the top of his game and looks to have every chance of completing a course and distance hat-trick. Roy Bowring’s 7-year-old has won five of his last seven starts and foiled a gamble on Tricky Dicky in a 0-105 contest over course and distance two weeks ago. The Exceed And Excel gelding has been raised 3lb for that success, but the weight rise is partially offset by a drop back into 0-90 company and he’s still not fully exposed over the minimum trip on Fibresand. He’s 3-4 at the distance and didn’t race as a 2-year-old or 3-year-old, so he could conceivably be open to further improvement, despite his age. Unfortunately, he’s a progressive type who won’t have gone unnoticed by the bookmakers but, this being a sprint handicap, he should be hopefully be a working man’s price in any case.

Selection: Southwell 3.05 Foolaad to win 3/1



For the horse racing purist, there is surely no better place to bet on the Cheltenham Festival, in 2018, than the floor of the betting ring at Prestbury Park. The Cheltenham Festival is, undoubtedly, the most important National Hunt meeting of the year, and draws huge attendances, well in excess of 50,000, on each of the four days.

Make sure you arrive in plenty of time – at least half an hour before the “off” – if you’re having a bet in the first race and be prepared to push your way through the throng in the betting ring to bet at the best odds available for your selection. Be prepared, too, to experience the famous Cheltenham roar first hand. As the tapes go up for the first race, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, a boisterous clamour, which will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, reverberates around the racecourse as spectators give voice to their nervous energy.

Of course, the “cut and thrust” of the betting ring isn’t for everyone. Thankfully, most of the races at the Cheltenham Festival are shown live on terrestrial television and all of them are streamed live on numerous bookmakers’ sites, if you’re prepared to bet £1 or £2 a race for the privilege. In fact, live streaming of all 27 races is not the only good reason for opening an account with an online bookmaker before, or during, the Cheltenham Festival.

Bookmakers, being bookmakers, are well aware of the popularity of the Festival and will go out of their way to attract new business during the four days. It can be hard to keep up to date with the latest offers. I vividly remember Coral offering Sprinter Sacre at even money, albeit to a maximum stake of £20, to new customers ahead of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Sprinter Sacre duly won, by 19 lengths, at odds of 1/4, without ever coming off the bridle, so Coral had effectively given away £20 to each new customer and you’ll come across similar, seemingly daft, but highly lucrative offers every time the Festival rolls around. It’s still January and Paddy Power are already offering “non-runner, no bet” on the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the World Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Several websites keep track of the Cheltenham Festival offerings from a swathe of bookmakers, so you don’t have to. It’s worth keeping an eye on these as March 13 draws closer, because some of the offers available are, frankly, unbelievable.