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Who Are The Contenders For Cheltenham 2024?

The four biggest days on the horse racing schedule across the United Kingdom and Ireland are nearly upon us, as the Cheltenham Festival gets underway on Tuesday, March 12.

Some of the biggest stars in National Hunt racing will be in action on the biggest stage, with 14 Grade 1 events being staged at Cheltenham in front of the 65,000+ Racegoers in attendance.

This year’s event promises to be one of the most exciting in recent memory, with wide-open renewals of some of the big races on the schedule. Similar to Kentucky Derby handicapping, Cheltenham offers similar opportunities for wagers.

But, who are some of the leading contenders to land success in the Cotswolds this year?

Ballyburn

The novice hurdles are always among the most interesting races at Cheltenham, with the action on the opening day getting underway with the Supreme. Ballyburn looks to be the most exciting novice in action this year, with the Willie Mullins runner likely to run in either the Supreme or Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle.

He could be very hard to oppose over an extended two miles in the Supreme after dominating the field to win the G1 Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival by a commanding seven lengths from Slade Steel.

However, the option remains in place to step up in trip, which also wouldn’t be a concern after his dominant 25 length win over Cleatus Poolaw in a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown. Whichever race is targeted, he will take all the beating.

State Man

The Champion Hurdle headlines the action on Tuesday, but the recent announcement that last year’s champion Constitution Hill will be absent has opened the door for State Man.

The Willie Mullins runner has done nothing wrong throughout his career over hurdles, and has looked unstoppable throughout this term after winning three straight Grade 1s.

He was very impressive at the Dublin Racing Festival last month to beat Bob Olinger by over five lengths, and the absence of Nicky Henderson’s superstar makes him the standout contender to win the Champion Hurdle in 2024.

Protektorat

The Ryanair Chase is typically one of the most dramatic of the week, and this year’s looks a wide-open affair following the absence of Allaho. Caopdanno, Banbridge, and Conflated all hold solid claims, while last year’s winner Envoi Allen is hard to write off.

However, Protektorat rolled back to his best on his previous start for Dan Skelton, and he could be a very interesting price at 20/1. He jumped for fun in the G1 Denman Chase on his previous start, while he was a close second behind L’Homme Presse on his start before that.

Those two pieces of form could look very solid after the Gold Cup on Friday, while he has previous course form after finishing fifth in last year’s Gold Cup, before carrying top weight to a fine third in handicap company at Cheltenham in December. If he front runs, he could be very challenging to beat in the Ryanair.

Sir Gino

The final day of the Cheltenham Festival kicks off with the G1 Triumph Hurdle. The key trial for the race was staged at Cheltenham at the end of January, and there was a resounding winner in the form of Sir Gino.

Nicky Henderson is likely to endure a challenging week this year, but his day on Friday is likely to get off to a perfect start with Sir Gino. The four-year-old was excellent on Trial’s Day when getting the better for previous Triumph favourite Burdett Road by a ten-length margin.

That extended his career record to a perfect 3-0, and he dominates the betting this year based on the fact that he is clear on official ratings. If at his best, he looks incredibly hard to oppose for connections that will also be targeting Gold Cup glory with Shishkin.

Gerri Colombe

Gordon Elliott hasn’t landed success in the Gold Cup since Don Cossack’s victory in the 2016 edition, but Gerri Colombe certainly appears to be a standout chance this year. The eight-year-old was narrowly denied in the G1 Brown Advisory last year, before bouncing back to form this year to land the G1 Champion Chase at Down Royal.

He was below the standard required when beaten 23 lengths by Galopin Des Champs in the G1 Savills Chase at Christmas, but it is worth noting that the Elliott horses wasn’t in the best form during that period. Gerri Colombe goes well at Cheltenham, and the galloping track will play to all of his strengths.

Galopin Des Champs will be incredibly hard to beat, as the Mullins runner is the best long distance chaser in history, but the record of horses to have placed in the previous year’s edition of the Gold Cup could be a warning sign for those looking to keep faith with the eight-year-old at an incredibly short price.