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There’s not long to go now until the roar of the crowd announces the start of the Cheltenham Festival and it is at this stage where we can begin to look at who we think has the best chances for success throughout the week and who will walk away with the title of Top Trainer at the Festival. Last year was a very close run thing between Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins and had the placings of Mega Fortune and Bapaume been reversed in the Triumph Hurdle then it would have been the master of Closutton taking the crown rather than Gigginstown’s leading man. The market is tight this year as punters and bookies alike are uncertain and we will look in greater detail at that below, you can also check out our Cheltenham Festival tips for more content!
Despite losing his crown last year Willie Mullins remains the place to start in this market from a logical point of view as he has been successful in this competition five times since 2011 but also in the eyes of the bookies, he is a best priced 6/4 to regain his crown from Gordon Elliott. He has plenty of good chances throughout the week and will be hopeful of getting off to the perfect start with Getabird who is a short priced favourite for the Supreme Novices’, his shortest price chances later in the week come in the shape of the much hyped Laurina in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle and the iron horse Un De Sceaux as he looks to win the Ryanair Chase for the second year running. Willie Mullins is a remarkable trainer and has a strong team headed to Cheltenham so is a justifiably short price favourite to win Top Trainer.
Last year’s surprise top trainer was Gordon Elliott, who started off the Festival at red-hot pace when winning three races on the first day and didn’t look back to edge out Mullins in a tight finish. He looks to have plenty of strong chances this year not least Apple’s Jade who is odds-on to retain her Mares’ Hurdle crown on the first day and Samcro who will be a short priced favourite whether he turns up in the Supreme or Ballymore. Elliott also has the favourite for the National Hunt Chase in the shape of Jury Duty the front two in the betting in the Cross Country, Tiger Roll and Cause Of Causes and all those factors combined lead to him being a best priced 3/1 chance.
Nicky Henderson is a man under plenty of pressure at the moment as he is currently responsible for the favourites of three Championship Races. The remarkably talented but quirky Might Bite heads the antepost betting for the Gold Cup while Altior and Buveur D’Air are both odds-on for the Champion Chase and Champion Hurdle respectively, all three look to have excellent chances of winning their races while Santini and Chef Des Obeaux dominate the top of the market for the Albert Bartlett. He has a very strong team coming into Cheltenham and though it is not guaranteed that any of them will do the business it is extremely unlikely he won’t be on the scoresheet and he has every chance of putting it up to Mullins and Elliott, he is a best price 11/4 to take the crown.
It is very difficult to envisage a situation where none of the ‘Big Three’ end up being top trainer and most bookies are 50/1 bar the three but there is one trainer that could surprise this year and that is Ben Pauling. He was dealt a real blow when last year’s Neptune winner and his stable star Willoughby Court was ruled out of the JLT with an injury but he has a strong team this year and the likes of Le Breuil who is well fancied for the Coral Cup as well as Markov and Gowiththeflow could provide some welcome winners in the absence of his leading chance.
Best Chance: Le Breuil (Coral Cup)