CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL starts six months today – and already tickets are selling out and the betting markets really hotting up.
The biggest racing festival of the year took place behind closed doors last March.
Punters were starved of the chance to see the top equine talent the world has to offer strutting their stuff as the Covid pandemic took hold.
But six months on the country, thankfully, appears to be in a very different place.
And punter interest in next year's showpiece – which runs from Tuesday March 15 to Friday March 18 – has already hit huge heights, with tickets for the Guinness Grandstand on the first and last days already sold out.
Thankfully, many are still available for the three main enclosures, so you haven't missed out… yet.
Some 250,000 punters usually make their way onto the track for the highlight of the National Hunt season.
And, speaking of Guinness, you can expect most of them will sample a pint of the black stuff on Thursday, which falls on St Patrick's Day.
Irish trainers absolutely dominated the 2021 meeting, with Willie Mullins being crowned top trainer and the travelling contingent winning 23 of the 28 races.
Henry de Bromhead stole the show as his horses won the Gold Cup, Champion Chase and Champion Hurdle.
Rachael Blackmore dominated in the saddle, becoming the first woman to win top jockey honours at the festival.
The two are fancied with the bookies to repeat their heroics in the Champion Hurdle with unbeaten superstar Honeysuckle.
The mare won at 11-10 in March and is 2-1 now, ahead of the likes of 8-1 Bob Olinger, 10-1 Appreciate It and 12-1 Ferny Hollow.
Friday's Gold Cup is another antepost market that has seen a lot of activity, with Monkfish and 2021 winner Minella Indo heading the betting at 6-1.
Envoi Allen, who memorably fell when odds-on favourite in the Marsh Novices' Chase has gone from 10-1 to 16-1.
Punters place absolutely massive emphasis on these markets, even six months out.
SunSport contacted one who previously won £28,000 off a £15 treble placed months in advance.
The bettor said they had been frantically placing 'last minute' punts for 2022.
'Last minute' bets six months out from the festival actually starting.
Cheltenham. There's nothing like it.
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