YOU can bet on virtually anything these days. What colour the Queen will wear at Royal Ascot. Who will be the next Pope. The Cheltenham Festival offers bookies the opportunity to be creative with various betting “specials”. But, to be honest, the racing is so good at Cheltenham that the major firms don’t really need to try to generate interest. People who never normally bet will be tentatively inching their way into betting shops or going online to put a few shillings on the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup. I’m not sure they will be too bothered about a head-to-head market involving Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson. But one market that really catches the imagination is who will be the top jockey?
Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh are the firm favourites because they have the equine artillery belonging to Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins behind them. But their prices offer little value. AP McCoy is next in the market and the Festival often goes one of two ways for him. Somehow I think he will have a good year so anything around the 6/1 mark is decent.
But where does the real value lie? Richard Johnson (top jockey in 2002) at 33/1? Pretty good if Philip Hobbs’ horses have a good week. In Robert Thornton’s absence, what about Wayne Hutchinson at 50/1? Hard to see, although I have a sneaky feeling Alan King might do better than expected after a rotten run of luck with some of his big guns.
But one price stands out. Tom Scudamore. He is as high as 50/1. For me that is worth a speculative bet even though he has never previously been the top jockey at Cheltenham. Dynaste is many people’s idea of the banker but his in-form boss David Pipe also has the likes of Gevrey Chambertin, The Liquidator, Grands Crus and Close House to go to war with. The Pipe team is always a force to be reckoned with in the handicaps.
So when it comes to betting at the Cheltenham Festival hopefully punters will latch on to the jockey who will carve his name into Cheltenham folklore.
Who do you think will be the top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival? Please leave a comment below…