ITV Pundits on Cheltenham - The Gambling Times

ITV Pundits on Cheltenham

ITV are again screening the Cheltenham Festival, and each of them have given their thoughts on racing’s biggest event.

Ed Chamberlin

When did you first come to the Cheltenham Festival and what’s your favourite personal memory
of The Festival?
My first visit to Cheltenham was in 1993 to see Jodami win the Gold Cup and it became an annual pilgrimage thereafter. Last year was a totally different experience presenting The Festival on ITV for the first time and my favourite memory has to be my first Champion Hurdle, with Sir Anthony McCoy interviewing J P McManus on our podium reminiscing on 50 Cheltenham Festival winners.

What in your view makes the Cheltenham Festival so magical?
It’s the way it brings the season to such a brilliant crescendo, which makes it the envy of so many other sports, in one of the best amphitheatres in sport. Everyone wants to win at Cheltenham. Add in the British and Irish rivalry and you have sporting theatre at its best.

Have you got any tips for which horses, jockeys and trainers will do well this week?
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have been the dominant force in recent years, but in the jockeys’ ranks this season there’s been a changing of the guard with the Bowen brothers and Bryony Frost starring on many an ITV Saturday. Winning on the biggest stage will be the next step. However, Un De Sceaux is a certainty in the Ryanair for Mullins and Walsh!

Any dark horses emerging from the pack which you can tip to win at Cheltenham?
Keep an eye out for Tiger Roll in the Cross-Country Chase.

What will be your personal highlight of The Festival, on or off the turf?
It will be fun to have Francesca Cumani presenting The Festival alongside me for the first time. There will be stories galore, but the thrill of presenting a Gold Cup will take some beating.

Who do you think will win the Gold Cup and why?
Might Bite is the one they all have to beat. He’s the improver in the field who has done nothing wrong this season. We know he goes well round Cheltenham after his performance in the RSA last year, which would have been an absolute rout had he not taken a detour toward the Guinness Village. That kink looks to have been ironed out and I’m confident Might Bite has the best engine in the field.

Francesca Cumani

What are you most looking forward to about the Cheltenham Festival?
The Cheltenham Festival is renowned the world over as being the most enjoyable week of racing you can experience and with an atmosphere like no other. It has been a while since I last attended and I can’t wait to be back there.

Do you have any memories from visiting Cheltenham previously which stand out?
What really stood out for me about Cheltenham and set it apart from many race meetings especially those on the Flat is that reception that the winning horses are greeted with when they come back into the winner’s enclosure. There seems to be a great admiration for the horses and the racing public can really get behind them because they can tend to race for multiple seasons.

What did you learn working with the ITV Racing team last year that will put you in good stead
for your extended role this year?
The most important thing I learned is that at ITV Racing there is a great camaraderie amongst the whole team, both in front and behind the cameras. Everybody is working hard to make the show a success and to help to make the sport grow in popularity and the best bit is that we all genuinely love racing and would talk about it till we were blue in the face anyway! I’m looking forward to immersing myself in The Festival fever and hopefully helping to make it really enjoyable for everybody watching at home.

Can you give us a taste of what it’s like behind the scenes at a major festival?
When you are involved in the broadcast of a major festival, it’s a very exciting place to be. As a lifetime lover of racing and horses in particular it’s a huge honour to be right in the thick of things, conveying the action as it happens. There is plenty of preparation and study time in the lead-up which serves to make each race more exciting because you can’t wait to see which horses are going to emerge victorious.
Personally, I like finding out the stories behind each horse and their connections because it gives a race more context and it gives viewers at home a better connection with the main players.

Who do you think will win the Gold Cup and why?
He’s the current favourite and I tend to try to avoid tipping favourites, but Might Bite has a really good chance of winning and I confess to being completely seduced by the name. I wonder how many visitors to Nicky Henderson’s stable have given him a wide berth thinking it’s a warning and not a name on his door!

Oli Bell

When did you first come to the Cheltenham Festival and what’s your favourite personal memory
of The Festival?
My first memory of going to Cheltenham was when Best Mate won his third Gold Cup. It’s the pinnacle of the sport and for a horse to win the race three times was an incredible achievement. The celebrations when he won were unreal in every bar on the course! My personal highlight though was when Ruby Walsh won his 50th race as a jockey at The Festival on Black Hercules, I’d had a decent bet on him and was pretty happy when he won!

What in your view makes the Cheltenham Festival so magical?
Cheltenham is a bit of a pilgrimage for racing fans. The atmosphere is incredible not just for a racing arena, but it’s comparable to any great sport events – there is a conversation, a buzz, an excitement wherever you turn. You can’t help but absorb the enjoyment everyone is getting out of the whole experience.

What are you most looking forward to about this jump season?
This Cheltenham we could see something special from Altior who is unbeaten over obstacles and I think Might Bite could produce a bit of magic in the Gold Cup.

Have you got any tips for which horses, jockeys and trainers will do well this week?
The Festival has been dominated in recent years by Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, but keep an eye out for the trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Nico de Boinville – they’ve got some big fancies and could have a successful week.

Any dark horses emerging from the pack which you can tip to win at Cheltenham?
There is a horse at a massive price of 25/1 in a handicap called the Coral Cup who goes by the name of Le Breuil that I think will go very close. He’s trained by a young trainer called Ben Pauling who knows how to celebrate a winner; if he wins the party won’t stop.

What will be your personal highlight of The Festival, on or off the turf?
My highlight will be presenting The Festival to the ITV audience. It’s a bit cheesy I know, but having the opportunity to broadcast the sport to millions of people watching at home is something I’m excited about.
It’s a fantastic sport and the perfect occasion to showcase all it can offer.

Who do you think will win the Gold Cup and why?
Might Bite will win the Gold Cup. He’s the best horse in the race by quite some way in my opinion and he’ll be able to give his trainer Nicky Henderson a third Gold Cup! It’ll be a great race!

Matt Chapman

When did you first come to the Cheltenham Festival and what’s your favourite personal memory
of The Festival?
My first experience of Cheltenham was as a news reporter for the Racing Post back in the late ‘90s. The passion for jumps racing there is infectious. There is no doubt the most exciting Cheltenham finish I have ever seen was Big Strand beating Allegation in the 1997 Coral Cup. Out of shot jumping the last, the Aussie Jamie Evans got him home by a short-head. Even now it’s impossible to believe he would win. A P McCoy was on Allegation. He must have been miffed!

What in your view makes the Cheltenham Festival so magical?
Passion. Knowledge. Competition. Desire. Expectation.

What are you most looking forward to about this jump season?
Jesus Christ appearing in the shape of Samcro. It’s been a long time since we have seen him. And now he’s
back!

Have you got any tips for which horses, jockeys and trainers will do well this week?
Footpath, Samcro and Apple’s Jade should all win. Davy Russell is a master at Cheltenham. Nicky Henderson, Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins should dominate.

Any dark horses emerging from the pack which you can tip to win at Cheltenham?
Moon Racer could be interesting in the County. He was tailed off on his return, but ran up the run-in strongly
out of most people’s sight!

What will be your personal highlight of The Festival, on or off the turf?
It’s my second year at Cheltenham for ITV and I’ll be really busy on and off camera, so just being amongst
it with the punters and the horses again will be my highlight.

Who do you think will win the Gold Cup and why?
I have tipped up Native River at 12/1 and Our Duke at 16/1.

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