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One of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures on the sporting calendar, the curtain goes up on this year’s show on Tuesday 13th March.

The sport’s biggest names will be in attendance, from star trainers and jockeys to the main attraction, the horses themselves. With millions of pounds set to be wagered on bets again this year, it’s little surprise to see bookmakers vying for your business. It’s a real buyer’s market, one of the few occasions where the power is with the people. There’s also no lack of special offers and deals doing the rounds to lure you in and Timeform’s free bets page serves as a handy index of the best available.

We take a look at the leading cast, picking out 10 horses sure to be popular with punters in the run-up to the festival.

Footpad

Current favourite for the Arkle Chase on Tuesday and one of a talented Willie Mullins squad, the six-year-old bay ended 2017 with victory in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown, destroying the field. The nearest finisher Any Second Now slumped across the line a full 11 lengths behind in second. Not done there, he then went and won the Arkle Novices Chase at the same venue, again winning with plenty in hand. Petit Mouchoir was best of the rest but could get no closer than five lengths when it mattered. A real form horse, he’ll go as a strong play on day one.

Buveur D’air

Well quoted for the Champion Hurdle, another Tuesday race, Buveur D’air, for Nicky Henderson, landed the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown to get 2018 off to a flyer. Starting as a 1/16 favourite, there was little interest in it for punters, serving as nothing more than a chance for race-goers to catch a glimpse of a modern legend as he sharpens his tools for an assault on Prestbury Park. He didn’t win as convincingly as the SP said he would, but Buveur D’air got the job done and there’s much more to come in the weeks and months ahead.

Apples Jade

A real favourite of the casual punter, Apples Jade famously won the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham last year, upsetting Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini in a stunning finish. She was written off that day, but traders won’t make the same mistake this year and the six-year-old mare is currently the odds-on favourite. She won the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, edging out Supasundae in another classic. Nothing can be taken for granted in this race but there’s no doubt she deserves to be the price she is and will attract plenty of support from those in the know.

Samcro

It remains to be seen which race Samcro will be entered into, Gordon Elliott having a couple of options for him, but oddsmakers expect the Ballymore Novices Hurdle to be the target. He opened his account at Leopardstown with an impressive win in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle in early February, scalping a talented field, including runner-up Duc Des Genievres. That result took his career stats to six wins from a half-dozen starts and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He’ll be the banker of many on Wednesday if he goes.

Altior

Another from the Henderson string and bookmakers have Altior picked as the winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The eight-year-old gelding was doing the rounds at odds-on in winter, a February check-up finding him available at 4/6. He's another who wasted no time getting the year off on the right foot, claiming the three-runner Exchange Chase at Newbury. Nothing more than a show of fitness when push came to shove, there will be sterner challenges ahead, but there’s a real belief in the camp that they have a great horse here. He's in with a competitive field, including Min and Douvan, but he’s easy to like.

Un De Sceaux

Team Mullins; that alone will ensure the experienced 10-year-old has plenty of friends in the betting ring this year. He started with a record reading 15 wins and three seconds from 20 starts, proving a profitable horse to follow. He won at Ascot in January when picking up the Clarence House Chase, run over two miles, living up to his short odds and smashing his rivals into submission, strolling to a seven-length lead over silver medallist Speredek. He barely got out of first gear that day and will be primed for the Ryanair Chase.

Laurina

Winner of this year’s Mares Novices Hurdle, if odds compilers get their way. An inexperienced sort with a lot still to learn but she has done nothing but impress to date, going two from two with a win in a Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse at the end of January, a grade three event. She didn’t put a foot wrong that day, giving punters just a taste of her true ability, opening-up on the run in to beat Alletrix by 11 lengths. Devastating, but those who watched the race were in no doubt it was only the start. Connections will be hoping she stays unbeaten before the festival.

Apples Shakira

Henderson’s progressive filly and, although she’s not exactly a household name at the minute, connections hope that will all change come the spring. One of the stable’s worst kept secrets, she started her career with three wins in-a-row, winning on her debut at Cheltenham in a trial, enhancing that with more of the same next time out, before going three for three at Prestbury Park in January, banking the Trial Juvenile Hurdle over two miles. It's no surprise she’s being aimed at the festival, the team getting her used to the surroundings early. Triumph Hurdle shot looking likely.

Supasundae

One for Jessica Harrington, Supasundae is shaping up like a horse with a big festival in him. The product of Galileo was runner-up in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, beaten half a length by Apples Jade. No disgrace there, but the bay fought back to take the winner’s cheque in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February, taking odds-on race favourite Faugheen down a peg or two. Stayers Hurdle winner, according to the market.

Might Bite

The highlight of the week, the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup, is run on Friday afternoon. This year’s renewal promises to be something special and the early thinking is that Might Bite is worth taking a chance on. He’s won nine of his first 14 races and shown both his good and bad sides already. A fall at Kempton in the Kauto Star Novices Chase was followed by a stunning unbeaten run, including gold in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. A tough race to win but Might Bite has the talent to drag them home.

Article Posted on Tuesday 13th February 2018 @ 13.47

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Starting Gate

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lingfield23-01-19 Like Sun Racing On Facebook Handicap 7f 1y - £3105 - Standard

1 Gold Club10/1

2 Locommotion6/1

3 Brogans Bay10/1

4 Maazel10/1

5 Cool Echo9/2

6 Swiss Cross6/1

7 Athassel11/1

8 Catapult10/1

9 Mr Andros16/1

10 Baby Gal8/1

11 Coffeemeanscoffee14/1

12 Haraz12/1

13 Seaquinn16/1

14 Flourishable20/1

hereford23-01-19 MansionBet Novices' Handicap Hurdle2m - £4159 - Good to soft-soft in places

1 Valse Au Taillons8/1

2 Monday Club13/2

3 Lookforarainbow16/1

4 Another Theatre3/1

5 Eceparti9/2

6 Khanisari28/1

7 Edabean28/1

8 The Knot Is Tied3/1

9 Star of Rory4/1

10 Cheeky Rascal14/1

11 Zorlu100/1

catterick23-01-19 Racing To School Novices' Hurdle2m 3f 66y - £4809 - Good-good to firm in places (prec inspection 8am)

1 Coole Well11/8

2 Enfin Phil6/1

3 Hogan's Height7/4

4 Iconic Belle4/1

lingfield23-01-19 Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Fillies' Handicap 7f 1y - £3752 - Standard

1 Playfull Spirit9/4

2 Sonnet Rose12/1

3 Sweet Nature3/1

4 Autumn Leaves0/0

5 Chica De La Noche7/2

6 Time Stands Still10/1

7 Hic Bibi11/1

8 Lady Marigold11/1

9 The Special One16/1

10 First Link12/1

hereford23-01-19 MansionBet Beginners' Chase2m 4f 194y - £5317 - Good to soft-soft in places

1 Aintree My Dream10/3

2 Change Ur Tune100/1

3 Mulcahys Hill6/4

4 Noruki50/1

5 Petiville14/1

6 Piton Pete7/1

7 Wilde Blue Yonder13/2

8 Sully D'Oc Aa11/4

9 Sprogzilla66/1

catterick23-01-19 Join Racing TV Now Handicap Chase3m 1f 54y - £4159 - Good-good to firm in places (prec inspection 8am)

1 A Tail Of Intrigue3/1

2 Monsieur Bagot10/3

3 Bocasien Desbois9/2

4 Dartford Warbler5/1

5 Alto Des Mottes8/1

6 Shaiyzar6/1

7 Kilmacallogue Bay8/1

lingfield23-01-19 Ladbrokes Novice Stakes 6f 1y - £3752 - Standard

1 Derry Boy20/1

2 Fury And Fire7/1

3 Shug8/1

4 St Peters Basilica1/1

5 The Man Of Mode66/1

6 Turn To Rock15/8

7 Bequest12/1

hereford23-01-19 Mr & Mrs Chris Mayers Maiden Hurdle2m 5f 163y - £4159 - Good to soft-soft in places

1 Boldmere20/1

2 Bold Plan11/4

3 Diomede des Mottes5/2

4 Est Illic16/1

5 Golden Sovereign20/1

6 Italian River100/1

7 Lord Du Mesnil8/1

8 Mahari12/1

9 Morning Vicar5/2

10 Pride Of Lecale20/1

11 Rizzardo33/1

12 Talktomenow8/1

Latest Results

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NewcastleBetway Casino Handicap

110Avenue Of Stars9/2 jf
22Bobby Joe Leg15/2
34Epeius9/2 jf
Winning TrainerKaren McLintock
Winning JockeyJason Hart
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Pl£1.90, £3.30
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Winning JockeyNathan Evans
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Distances2 lengths, 1 1/4 length
Tote Win£4.70
Pl£1.30, £3.50, £2.50
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Trifecta£270.20
CSF£54.61
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11Havana Rocket4/6 f
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Distances2 1/2 lengths, 1 1/4 length
Tote Win£1.50
Pl£1.02, £1.60
EX£3.00
Trifecta£7.00
CSF£2.65
StatusWeighedIn

NewcastleBetway Sprint Handicap

13Fendale5/1
26Bowson Fred9/1
37Primo's Comet10/3
Winning TrainerB Smart
Winning JockeyG Lee
Runners8 ran
Distances1/2 length, 3/4 length
Tote Win£6.10
Pl£1.50, £2.80, £1.40
EX£49.00
Trifecta£189.70
CSF£46.66
StatusWeighedIn

NewcastleBetway Conditions Stakes

11Encore d'Or9/4 f
23Ornate11/1
35Stone Of Destiny7/2
Winning TrainerR M H Cowell
Winning JockeyL Morris
Runners7 ran
DistancesNeck, 1/2 length
Tote Win£2.60
Pl£1.60, £4.80
EX£17.70
Trifecta£79.40
CSF£27.32
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Newcastlesunracing.co.uk Handicap

16Pinnata2/1 f
21Straight Right9/4
37Areen Heart10/1
Winning TrainerS C Williams
Winning JockeyJ Fanning
Runners8 ran
Distances1 1/2 length, Head
Tote Win£2.70
Pl£1.20, £1.10, £2.20
EX£7.20
Trifecta£35.90
CSF£6.49
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NewcastleFollow Top Tipster Templegate At SunRacing Handicap

13Rey Loopy9/2
21Trevithick5/2
34Blame Culture9/4 f
Winning TrainerB Haslam
Winning JockeyA Mullen
Runners7 ran
DistancesNeck, Short Head
Tote Win£3.70
Pl£2.00, £1.60
EX£13.20
Trifecta£33.10
CSF£14.46
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LeicesterBrook Conditional Jockeys' Mares' Handicap Hurdle

18Lara Trot16/1
210Tara Well7/1
36Katebird14/1
Winning TrainerR Dickin
Winning JockeyCharlie Hammond
Runners13 ran
Distances1/2 length, 1 length
Tote Win£24.60
Pl£5.60, £2.70, £3.00
EX£139.40
Trifecta£2129.50
CSF£126.04
StatusWeighedIn