The road to the 2017 Cheltenham Festival is very much underway.
The majority of the horses who have entries at the meeting will either have had their final preparation run or will be set for that outing over the next couple of weeks.
Here are the best bets in the ante-post markets for day one of the meeting this year where the feature race is the Grade One Champion Hurdle:
Champion Hurdle - Yanworth
It came as no surprise this week that Annie Power will not defend her title in the race this year as a leg injury has ruled her out of the 2m contest.
Faugheen is expected to return in the same colours later this month though in the Irish Champion Hurdle and as long as he comes out of that race well, he is set run on day one of the Festival in March.
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There is no doubt Faugheen is the horse they all have to beat if he is as good as he was in 2015. Those backing him at odds of 4/5 though are very brave as there is still no guarantee at this stage he will line up.
The value in the Champion Hurdle market now looks to be with Yanworth who is available in the horse racing betting at 7/2.
He has had a full season on the track and has got better with each run. His latest appearance was in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle where he proved he has the pace over this 2m trip as he got the better of The New One by over three lengths, with former Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent or Yours a further five lengths back in fourth.
Arkle Trophy – Altior
Altior is many people’s idea of the NAP of the meeting at the Festival this year. Nicky Henderson’s runner has won all three of his starts since switching to fences at the start of the season.
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The seven-year-old would be a serious player in the Champion Hurdle if he would have taken that route but his trainer has taken the decision to go chasing early into his career and so far it has paid off.
Altior can be backed at 11-10 to win the Arkle where his biggest rival will be Min who he beat in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
It is hard to see the Irish horse reversing the form at Cheltenham, therefore the odds against available on Henderson’s charge looks very generous.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle - Charli Parcs
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No horse has done enough in the 2m novice hurdling division so far this season to merit being a short price favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Therefore it looks to be a wide-open contest. The one runner who really does have the makings of being a potential star though is Charli Parcs.
He was purchased from France at the back of last year and he scored comfortably on his British debut at Kempton over Christmas.
He could be worth a chance at 12/1 to win the opening race of the meeting.
Day one of the Festival also features the Ultima Handicap Chase, Mares’ Hurdle, National Hunt Chase and Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase in what is always an exciting start to the week at Cheltenham.