The jumps season is back in the UK and that means all roads lead to the Cheltenham Festival in March in what is the highlight of the National Hunt campaign. Over the next few weeks, the leading horses will make their seasonal reappearances where connections will be hoping they can shake off the cobwebs and make a winning start.
Here are three horses that could have a big season and are worth watching in their respective divisions at the Festival.
Nicky Henderson’s Buveur d’Air will be chasing his third straight Champion Hurdle success this season, something which has not been done since the great Istabraq managed the feat in 2000. Victory in the premier hurdle contest on day one in March will certainly help the seven-year-old elevate himself into that category as one of the best in the modern era. Buveur d’Air could return to action in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, the race he won last year. Henderson’s runner has now prevailed in his last ten races so it will be exciting to see how far he can stretch that winning run.
Altior has been a winner at the last three Cheltenham Festivals and on ratings alone, he is one the leading horses still in training today. Unfortunately, we only saw Altior for the last three months of last season as he had wind surgery in the early stages of the campaign which put him out of action until February. Despite his setback, it did not stop Henderson’s chaser from claiming the Queen Mother Champion Chase where he was fantastic in the 2m contest. Altior is the evens favourite, as mrgreen sportsbook shows, to retain his crown in the Champion Chase next year and that looks a very fair price. At evens, the odds would suggest Altior has a 50% chance of winning the race which, as anybody has seen the horse run knows, that percentage should be much higher.
Might Bite suffered just one defeat last season in what, up until that point, was a fantastic campaign for the chaser. Unfortunately for connections, his sole loss came in the Blue Riband event in the sport, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, where he finished second behind Native River. After a victory in his opening run of the campaign at Sandown, Might Bite then went on to score the biggest success of his career in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day where he defeated Thistlecrack, Whisper, Bristol De Mai and Fox Norton. In what will be just his third season over fences, fans of the horse can expect Might Bite to peak in the 2018/19 campaign. The Triple Chase Crown is likely to be the target for the nine-year-old this season, therefore his first run could come at Haydock next month before he returns to Kempton to defend his crown in the King George.