Spring Horse Racing: Previewing The UK's Big Events

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The spring horse racing season will be upon us in no time.

While most in the U.S. are eagerly awaiting the U.S. Triple Crown events (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes), the season really kicks off in Europe.

More specifically, the UK hosts some of the world's very best horse racing and jumping events between March and June, which makes the region well-worth looking into as we begin 2015. Here's a look at some of the main events and which horses are expected to be the favorites in the key races.

Where & When: Cheltenham, England between March 10-13.

What To Expect: The Cheltenham Festival is perhaps the most aptly titled of these races in that its environment truly resembles a festive party as much as a major sporting event.

There's a full slate of races for each day of the festival, with one particularly important race per day, but it's the celebration in between that really sets Cheltenham apart. Equipped with restaurants, a socializing area, and crowds full of enthusiastic racegoers, the grounds at Cheltenham make for a terrific time for anyone attending a race.

There's no single favorite at Cheltenham because, as mentioned, each day has its own marquee racing event. These races are the Champion Hurdle, the Champion Chase, the World Hurdle, and the Gold Cup. While many horses will run in more than one of these competitions, each is suited to a different style of champion, meaning that no favorite is likely to win more than one major title.

Judging by the event website's own posted racing odds, however, the favorites are as follows: Faugheen (Champion Hurdle), Sprinter Sacre (Champion Chase), More Of That (World Hurdle), and Silviniaco Conti (Gold Cup).

In a phrase, expect a thoroughly professional venue. As with Cheltenham and many other major racing events, Aintree hosts a number of exciting races over a three-day span, complete with the typical throngs of racegoers and an excited atmosphere. But attend The Grand National (or for that matter, read through reviews from those who have and you'll take part in one of the best experiences in racing. Everything is run smoothly, the venue is accessible and welcoming, and the races are top-notch. But unlike Cheltenham, The Grand National is known primarily for a single signature race (of the same name) and that race is among the most-high profile events in the sport.

The Favorites: The Grand National site doesn't display the same aggregate odds that you can find at Cheltenham, but going directly to the odds posted by the professionals at Betfair, it seems clear that there isn't an overwhelming favorite at this point anyway. Shutthefrontdoor leads the way, with Double Seven, Merry King, and Pineau De Re close behind in the odds. We could see the gap between the favorite and the pack widen as we get closer to April 11, but for now it looks to be a close race!

What To Expect: If you are fortunate enough to attend the Royal Ascot, expect, quite simply, one of the grandest experiences in racing. As with Cheltenham and The Grand National, Ascot's racecourse can feel like a party at times, but there's something different in the extravagance of the venue (and sometimes the prices).

Frankly, it's hard to find a more stunning facility in the sport of horse racing, so a lot of the fun of attending The Royal Ascot just comes from being there, as much as enjoying the action.

Frankly, with this race not scheduled until mid-June, it's difficult to establish any kind of firm favorite. A lot can happen in six months with regard to the form of the competitors and additions to (or subtractions from) the field of competitors.

But as of now, Forgotten Rules appears to be the early favorite. 


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