Jockeys, trainers and fans can’t help but be excited at this time of year. The Cheltenham Festival is an amazing event, even if you don’t follow horse racing closely. It’s one of the biggest dates in the racing calendar, and the atmosphere is unlike anything else you can experience. 

Looking ahead to the racing, so much will depend on the going this week, which is what makes Cheltenham so hard to predict. It can start out soft on Tuesday and then harden up by the end of the week – a key part of what makes the festival such a challenge for jockeys and trainers, and such a spectacle to watch. 

The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Tuesday, 3.30pm) 

I will be favouring Buveur D’Air for The Champion Hurdle this year. He was last years’ winner in a dramatic race which saw him draw away on the run-in to win by four and a half lengths to beat then favourite, Yanworth. He's unbeaten in his last nine starts and will be hard to beat on the day.

The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Tuesday, 5.30 pm)

This should be an interesting and competitive race because it’s a wide field of relatively unexposed horses. Being a novice handicap means that we’re likely to see horses that are expected to improve over time so it’s a case of watching out for which ones are ready to step up to the next level. I’ve got my eye on Any Second Now to have a good race. 

The Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase (Wednesday, 3.30 pm)

2018 is set to see another clash between Altior and Douvan and it will be interesting to see if the result is a repeat of last year. Altior is a great horse and both have impressive records. However, if I was riding this year and I had my pick of rides, Altior would be my choice.

The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (Thursday, 3.30pm)

Harry Fry is one of a crop of young good trainers, and is bringing a number of good horses to Cheltenham. Unowhatimeanharry is one of those and he is my favourite in Thursday’s Stayer’s Hurdle.

The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase (Friday, 3.30 pm)

The Gold Cup is the one everyone wants to win and it’s another one that’s difficult to pick a winner for this year. Definitely Red has the chance to give the north its first Gold Cup winner since Jodami in 1993, however I would recommend going each way here to increase your chances.

A true test for jockeys

For a jockey, Cheltenham is one of the biggest tests, both physically and mentally, but in my opinion nothing beats it. It’s the best feeling in the world when you win in front of a crowd of 70,000, as I was fortunate enough to do during my career. I will be as excited as everyone else cheering on this year’s runners and riders, and look forward to a fascinating festival. 

Please note that the opinions expressed are those of Sir Anthony McCoy and not those of Close Brothers Group plc.

Article published on 9 March 2018. Horses running may be subject to change.