How Do Current Cheltenham Festival Specialists Compare to the Greats?

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"Many great horses have been in the winners’ enclosure at Cheltenham" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06

It's not as uncommon for the very best National Hunt thoroughbred horses to win multiple times at jumps racing's biggest meeting, the Cheltenham Festival, as you might think.

Some superstar horses dominate a division for years, while others progress from hurdles to fences and still keep on winning top races. How do past legends compare with the current crop of Cheltenham Festival specialists, though?

Increased success for Irish raiders at the four-day mid-March meeting in recent years is no small part down to multiple winners. Penhill is going for three consecutive Cheltenham victories if defending his Stayers' Hurdle crown for Willie Mullins and is prominent in the betting to do so, but has a long way to go to match the achievements of Quevega.

She won the Mares' Hurdle at the Festival six times in a row for the champion Irish trainer between 2009 and 2014. That is a Cheltenham record and no horse has ever been more successful during the big meeting.

Tiger Roll from Gordon Elliott's yard is one of a few Emerald Isle raiders to have won three different races at the Festival. While he is set to defend his Cross Country Chase crown, the 2018 Aintree Grand National hero also landed the National Hunt Chase as a novice over fences and the Triumph Hurdle much earlier in his career.

Cause Of Causes was another Elliott inmate with a superb record at Cheltenham over fences, and won three different Festival races in consecutive years. His victories in the National Hunt Chase and Kim Muir Challenge Cup saw him partnered by crack Irish amateur jockey Jamie Codd, and he was allowed to keep the ride when completing the hat-trick in the Cross Country.

These are laudable achievements, but Arkle is the measuring stick by which all Irish chasers heading to Cheltenham are judged. He won the Gold Cup three years on the spin between 1964 and 1966.

No horse has bettered Arkle's record in the blue riband event of National Hunt staying steeplechases since, but Best Mate did match it in the early 2000s. Even Arkle couldn't live up to the five consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup crowns achieved by Golden Miller in the mid-1930s, though.

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"Altior" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06

For experts like those at betconnect, a social betting network that provides punters with access to the bets of pro gamblers in each day's horse racing fixtures, he is seen as the current superstar in jumps racing who has built up a fearsome reputation.

This is because the Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old is unbeaten in 17 starts over hurdles and fences. He can match the 18-race undefeated streak and record of Big Buck's by retaining his Queen Mother Champion Chase Crown at this year's Festival.

With the opposition running scared, Altior is odds-on to do just that. He is seeking his fourth consecutive Cheltenham Festival victory after landing the 2016 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the novice chase named after Arkle two years ago and the Champion Chase last season.

Comparing which horse's incredible run is better is tough. Big Buck's stuck to staying hurdles for Paul Nicholls - winning the three-mile World Hurdle as it was then known four times on the bounce between 2009 and 2012.

Altior's record encompasses both sets of obstacles and he's contested more Grade 1 races, albeit with diminishing fields. Debate will always exist, but we're blessed to have such superb horses heading to the Cheltenham Festival.