The nature of national hunt racing means that the term “banker” should always come with an asterisk beside it. After all, your horse could be running like the wind, on the cusp of victory, and then go right through a fence or hurdle and scupper your bet.
On the other hand, there is a reason for horses getting the hot-favourite status at Cheltenham races. They have proved time and time again that they can handle the grueling contests. Sure, disaster can always strike – that keeps us on the edge of our seats. But more often than not Cheltenham is the theatre for star horses to claim their reward after the hard work has gone in all season.
But who are the “bankers” of this year’s festival (10th-13th March)? Where is all the smart money going? We pick three who look nailed-on to win below:
Paisley Park – Stayers’ Hurdle
Last year’s winner really looks in peak condition to do it all over again in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Paisley Park is simply built for this long-distance race, and it seems like the trainers of other top horses are avoiding this one given his form. If you bet on Cheltenham online, you can find odds of just under evens, with the best current price 10/11 at Betfair.
Others in the mix, like Summerville Boy (10/1), just can’t get near him. The price might not look massive, but Paisley Park would sit nicely in an accumulator bet for the week.
Benie Des Dieux – Mares’ Hurdle
There is a lot of talk about brilliant mare Benie Des Dieux being supplemented for the Champion Hurdle, but the conventional wisdom seems to point at another tilt at the Mares Hurdle, which she won in 2018.
However, best be careful and ensure your bookmaker offers NRNB (non-runner no bet) in case Willie Mullins decides to go for the big one. Benie Des Dieux will be among the favourites in whichever race she starts, but in the Mares’ Hurdle the odds of 10/11 from Paddy Power look like another steal.
Envoi Allen – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Like Benie Des Dieux above, there has been a lot of speculation over where Envoi Allen’s connections will want to aim the unbeaten 6yo. However, he has a long career ahead of him, and one feels that Gordon Elliott will go for the safer option in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
We say “safer”, but the Ballymore is still a keenly contested Grade 1 race which will feature quality like the 10/1 shot The Big Breakaway. However, this is Envoi Allen’s race to lose, and the 5/4 from Ladbrokes and Betfred looks generous given he is odds-on elsewhere. A future superstar, Envoi Allen’s career will lift off after victory here.
And one to avoid:
Tiger Roll – Cross Country Chase
One of the most famous horses in the business and already a legend after his four Cheltenham victories and two Grand National wins. However, we are concerned to hear from trainer Gordon Elliott on Tiger Roll’s lack of fitness.
Moreover, will likely be prioritising the Grand National in April. 5/4 for the Cross Country Chase looks way too short, even for the great Tiger Roll.