PLAY OR LAY THE BIG FOUR Barry Orr
The 'Fly' is bidding to become the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain his crown having lost it but he may struggle to beat a field in which there are several quality contenders. A disappointing third behind Rock On Ruby when odds-on at last year's Festival, this year's betting suggests he will have to reproduce the form he showed in 2011 to get home in front. Betfair racing ambassador Paul Nicholls has been waxing lyrical about Zarkandar's chances and this teak tough six-year-old course-and-distance winner will be at peak fitness in a bid to give the champion trainer back-to-back victories. The reigning champion Rock On Ruby can also be a main player. All things considered, at current odds of 9/4 (matched at low of 11/10 and high of 7/1 on Betfair ante post), Hurricane Fly is readily opposable
Verdict: Lay CHAMPION CHASE
It's quite simple with Sprinter Sacre. If he's stays on his feet, he wins. The main reason for his absolute dominance in this division this season is the fact that his opposition are a moderate bunch and it's virtually impossible to make a case for any one of them defeating Nicky Henderson's charge on Wednesday. At current exchange odds of 2/5 (matched at a low of 2/7 and a high of 3/1 on Betfair ante post), he will undoubtedly be the shortest-priced favourite at this year's Festival but if he puts in a clear round of jumping, he should saunter to a first Queen Mother Champion Chase success. If you like odds-on chances, this is manna from heaven for you.
Verdict: PlayWORLD HURDLE
The absence through injury of the four-time World Hurdle winner Big Buck's has diminished this year's renewal of Thursday's feature and the mantle as favourite is left resting on a horse which could only finish fifth in last year's race. To my eye, Oscar Whiskey plainly didn't stay the trip last year and although he has been running well this term, winning two of his three starts, he is still an unproven stayer and the harsh Cheltenham hill never takes any prisoners. At his current odds of 4/1 (matched at low of 5/2 and high of 94/1 on Betfair ante post), a lay bet is recommended in this one.
Verdict: LayGOLD CUP
Another Nicky Henderson 'hot pot' and another favourite the layers will be out to get. Not seen on the racetrack since beating Tidal Bay in December's Hennessy Chase, Bobs Worth is undoubtedly a class act having won at the last two Festivals. However, the lack of a recent run signals a far-from-ideal preparation for the big race. Irish hopes rest with the Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs and on a line of form with Tidal Bay, he won't be far off Bobs Worth, while the Betfair Chase winner and Paul Nicholls (pictured) star Silviniaco Conti has continued to improve throughout the season and is another second-season chaser with a live chance.
Barry Orr is Betfair's
Global PR Manager