Frank Hickey: The 5 best-backed horses for the Cheltenham Festival

It's squeaky bum time on the trading floor ahead of the opening day next Tuesday...

Cheltenham Festival - Gold Cup Day


The four-day Cheltenham smash-up has more competing plots than Game of Thrones and Paddy’s already seen punters flash the cash for some of their biggest fancies.

Here’s five Festival fancies that could have Paddy galloping for the gates come Friday night.

1. Give Me A Copper, Tuesday 2.50pm, Ultima Handicap

We could be hiding behind the sofa as soon as the second race is over if what Paul Nicholls says is anything to go by.

The former champion trainer has made no secret that Give Me A Copper looks to be his best chance of a winner on the opening day. His reappearance run last month at Sandown – his first in 446 days after injury – was eye-catching and should leave him bang on for this.

He ran well to the second last, before tiring to finish fourth to Classic Ben and his trainer obviously thinks he’s still well handicapped and hasn’t been shy about saying it.

Punters have taken note!

2. Laurina, Champion Hurdle, Tuesday 3.30pm

She is the least exposed runner in the Champion Hurdle field and any give in the ground should only help her chance.

You can argue whether Laurina’s price is reflective of what she has shown on the track so far – it clearly isn’t – but while Buveur D’Air looked bomb-proof after beating Samcro in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle earlier in the season, the reigning dual Champion Hurdle winner let himself down at Christmas when beaten by Verdana Blue.

Another bloodless victory over Vision Des Flos hasn’t removed the doubts about Buveur D’Air and with Apple’s Jade vying for joint favouritism now too with Buveur D’Air, we could be facing carnage here.

It’s hard to see how we’ll get a result outside of the big three in the betting.

3. Paisley Park, Stayers’ Hurdle, Thursday, 3.30pm

Unbeaten now since October 2018, Emma Lavelle’s star stayer has been visually impressive in all his races and punters have latched on.

While there is an argument that he’s only beaten West Approach twice, he has won the key trials and even when he hits a flat spot in his races, his turbo kicks in in and he’s finishes out his races strongly.

The positive noises coming from Closutton about ‘Faugheen the Machine’ give us some hope, but Paisley Park is one of the best-backed favourites of the meeting for some time now.

We need a result on what’s looking like a tricky Thursday.

4. Clan Des Obeaux, Gold Cup, Friday, 3.30pm


He’s always shown promise promise, but if anyone had said Clan Des Obeaux would be vying for Gold Cup favourtism after being beaten 10 lengths by Might Bite in last season’s Betway Bowl at Aintree, you’d have called for the men in white coats.

What really catapulted him into the public’s consciousness was his King George VI victory at Kempton and his follow up win at Ascot. Beating Thistlecrack and Terrefort respectively doesn’t make you a Gold Cup winner – but it’s the manner in which he did it that counts.

Travels sweetly, jumps beautifully and runs to the line.

That there’s doubts over his market rivals has also meant that he keeps attracting money. Long-time favourite Presenting Percy hasn’t jumped a fence in public all year, Might Bite looks to have lost his mojo and Willie Mullins is throwing up to four darts at the board, with questions marks over all their claims.

Friday is still a lifetime away in terms of results, but we’ll be a goal down if Clan Des Obeaux wins the Gold Cup.

5. Measureofmydreams, Kim Muir, Thursday, 5.30pm


While most of the above have been popular gambles by the public – Gordon Elliott’s lesser seen Measureofmydreams  started out as a shrewdie bet and started to catch fire as the Cheltenham preview night’s hit the internet.

We’ve hit every branch on the tree as his price has plummeted.

Elliott has owned the Festival in the last couple of seasons and has trained 22 winners there now, including eight least year to be crowned leading trainer for successive seasons. Measureofmydreams’ 2017 season was a write off and he missed 2018. He was then switched from Noel Meade’s yard to Elliott’s, where he finished third to Snugsborough Benny over 3m at Fairyhouse on his comeback run last month, to indicate he was back on track.

If he is back to the sort of form that saw him finish third to Minella Rocco and Native River in the 2016 National Hunt Chase, then those who’ve backed him from 33/1 to 5/1 favourite will have seen their money well spent.

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