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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Jump to it mate...

With the Cheltenham Festival taking place next week in Gloucestershire in the UK, I thought I’d take a break from the Derby trail to take a look at the phenomenon that takes place annually over a four day period across the pond. An interesting twist to the Festival this year is that the newly appointed track announcer at Churchill Downs, Mark Johnson, who will call his first Kentucky Derby this May, will be calling the Festival’s 26 races. After the Festival, he will stay abroad to call “the inaugural $150,000 Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at Kempton Park Racecourse on March 18th. The winner of the 1 1/8-mile clockwise race over Polytrack will earn a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for Kentucky Derby 135 and a $100,000 bonus should the winner start in the May 2 race.” OK, so I couldn’t get away from the Derby altogether when composing this post!

The Festival races take place starting next Tuesday the 10th and carry through Friday the 13th (feeling lucky?) culminating with the feature race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase, the fourth race on day four of the meeting. Of course, if you are looking to wager on the Festival’s excellent betting races, the best place to look for the current odds and wagering opportunities is at Betfair. Betfair, is the organization that signed an agreement to purchase TVG for $50 million in January. This organization will definitely factor into a changing betting landscape over the next few years.

The steeplechase has a special part in my racing heart, as the first race I ever attended at Saratoga Race Course was a steeplechase in 2004. The Saratoga Resident explained racing and betting to me that day and I’ve been forever hooked (see junky). I still enjoy the steeplechase races at the Spa, and someday I hope to attend my first Cheltenham Festival, after checking out all of the blogs and stories surrounding next week’s races.

One of the best parts that the Festival offers is great betting opportunities. Only 22% of the favorites have won since 2003, during the Festival races, as Betfair blogger Wayne Bailey points out here. So grab a pint, check out the Festival, bet a few races and enjoy!


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