For most of the year in Great Britain, flat racing gets the headlines, particularly in June for Derby Day at Epsom Downs and later in the month for Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse.  However, the steeplechasers or simply “chasers” get their time in the spotlight during The Festival at Cheltenham in March and the Grand National at Aintree in April.

The 2015 Cheltenham Festival is fast approaching on March 10-13.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup, featured on the final day of The Festival, is a Group 1 National Hunt race for horses five-years-old and up.  It is the most prestigious steeplechase race in Great Britain and typically draws 35 international entries that must clear 22 jumps over the course of 3 miles and 2 1/2 furlongs.

The Gold Cup dates back to 1819, when it began as a flat race on Cleeve Hill, situated above the current racing ground.  The owner of the first winner, Spectre, received 100 guineas, British coins of the time.  (Each coin contained approximately one-quarter ounce of gold.)  One hundred five years later, in 1924, the Cheltenham Gold Cup was changed to a jumps race carrying prize money of £685.  The race has been run almost continuously, with the exception of a number of cancellations necessitated by factors like war and flooding.

The 2014 renewal of the race was worth £550,000 and the Irish longshot Lord Windermere prevailed in a thrilling duel by a head.  He was trained by Jim Culloty, who as a jockey piloted Best Mate to three Cheltenham Gold Cup wins.  Lord Windermere survived a stewards’ inquiry after veering in on the second-place finisher On His Own.  The stewards took 15 minutes before finally deciding to leave the results unaltered.

The first three finishers in the 2014 rendition all went off at double-digit odds;  20/1, 16/1. and 14/1, respectively.

According to PaddyPower, the top six horses–and their odds–for the 2015 renewal are currently:

Silviniaco Conte (3/1); Road to Riches (8/1); Many Clouds (10/1); Lord Windermere (12/1); Holywell (12/1), and Bobs Worth, (14/1).   Previous Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Lord Windermere and Bobs Worth are at enticing odds and six horses are 50/1 or higher.

The Cheltenham Festival offers world-class betting races every day leading up to the acclaimed Cheltenham Gold Cup.  In the United Kingdom, it is a time for socializing and enjoying the tradition of watching and betting on the best “chasers.”

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