Cheltenham Festival Day 1 Tips
The wait is over! The 2020 Cheltenham Festival is finally here (no thanks to Coronavirus) and we’ll be hoping to find you plenty of winners! Here you will find our race-by-race preview with all 7 races covered
We’ll include key information like how we think the race will be run and who we see emerging as the main danger (or dangers)
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1 2m87y
Racing Post Arkle – Grade 1 1m7f199y
Ultima Handicap Chase – Grade 3 3m1f
Champion Hurdle – Grade 1 2m87y
Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 1 2m3f200y
Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase – Listed 2m4f44y
National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase – Grade 2 3m5f201y
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 1.30
Not long now until the famous Cheltenham roar! I’ve always liked the Supreme ever since Cinders And Ashes landed us a 16/1 winner in the race back in 2012. We were on Altior back in 2016 and also backed Klassical Dream last year. Hopefully we can find you another winner and if you’ve been following us on Twitter you’ll know our main play in the race is SHISHKIN. He has always had a big reputation and was sent off odds-on at Newbury before taking a tumble early. It was an experience that wouldn’t have been lost on him though as he jumped well en route to winning by 11 lengths at the same venue next time. He then stepped up in trip before winning by the same distance at Huntingon in the Sidney Banks and confirmed himself as one of the smartest novices around. He clearly stays further than the two miles but doesn’t lack pace so has that perfect blend of speed and stamina needed to win the Supreme. He reminds me of Altior the way he does his best work at the finish and I can’t see anything finishing better up that hill. He is the first pick in our Lucky 15 (for Oddschecker) and must go close. Given the shape of the race and the value on offer I’ve decided to put forward CHANTRY HOUSE too from the same yard. He’s unbeaten and I’ve been really impressed with how he has improved. He’s had a great prep and this test should really suit him and it wouldn’t surprise me if Henderson saddled a 1-2. Asterion Forlonge is respected but he can jump out to his right and looks more of a stayer to me so I think he’ll lack that change of gear needed to win the race. Abacadabras is also prominent in the market and has to be respected given his form behind Envoi Allen. At a bigger price it wouldn’t surprise me to see Edwardstone run well but he’d want it to dry out.
Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase 2.10
We stick with unbeaten chaser NOTEBOOK in the Racing Post Arkle. Henry de Bromhead’s 7yo has done nothing but improve this season, winning all four starts over fences since switched to this discipline. He is a really likeable sort who digs deep and always seems to find enough to prevail. He started off at Punchestown where he was sent off a 5/4 fav and just had to be pushed clear under hands and heels to prevail. That was an extremely promising start and he quickly built on that to readily overhaul the 151-rated Moon Over Germany at the same venue by 5 lengths next time. He then stepped up to Grade 1 company for the first time fending off Fakir D’Oudairies to win convincingly at the finish. I remember after that performance thinking where would the ceiling be for him as he just seemed to keep pulling out more under pressure. Now he wasn’t overly impressive in seeing off Cash Back last time but he did plenty before the race and I just think he was idling once in front. You have to remember he bolted down at the start so how bigger engine does he have to suffer those excursions and still find enough in a battling finish? I think that’s factored into his price as for me he shouldn’t be any bigger than 2/1 and 3/1 is widely available at the time of writing. We should see a much more polished performance here. He holds the second and third fav on form and this stiff finish will be right up his street. The occasion is probably his biggest danger rather than the opposition. If he goes down to the start calmly then watch his price contract. He could easily go off 7/4. The main danger looks to be Olly Murphy’s Brewin’Upastorm. I do like the horse but it’s concerning we haven’t seen him since November and while he should go well I can see him coming there without quite being good enough. Of the rest Maire Banrigh and Rouge Vif are no backnumber so it’s an Arkle with a bit of strength in depth.
Ultima Handicap Chase 2.50
A fiercely competitive renewal as anticipated 7/1 the field. Vinndication tops the betting and while he is a horse I’ve had a lot of time for over the last couple of years I’m not sure this sort of test is what he wants. He likes to dominate and there’s tons of pace on here as you can imagine. He has won seven of his nine career starts for Kim Bailey so that shows how talented he is but there’s questions to answer going left handed and a mark of 159 looks steep enough for me to be opposed. I’ve fired three darts at this race in the hope of finding a winner. KILDISART is my main play in the race. He stays three miles well and after a couple of disappointing efforts took a big step back in the right direction when fifth at Kempton last time and with the cheekpieces on off a mark of 150 I can see him right in the mix. He is plenty talented and 10/1 looks a knocking each way bet. If I like him then MISTER MALARKY has to be included too as he was right back to his best winning that race at Kempton last time and the way he jumps should see him involved. He has plenty of class and has young Jonjo O’Neill Junior in the saddle. He ran a monster race when fourth in the RSA at last year’s Festival behind the likes of Topofthegame, Santini and Delta Work so a mark of 151 doesn’t overly concern me. The final play in the race is WHO DARES WINS for Alan King. He chased home Master Tommytucker on chase debut at Kempton before being given a stinker at Plumpton (ahead a yard after the line). He was very much back on track last time showing a good attitude at the finish and this step back up in trip could unlock the improvement needed to take this. The Conditional and No Comment are two I fear most. At a huge price Activial could run a big race.
Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy 3.30
It’s a poor Champion Hurdle, no doubt about that, but after much deliberation I found it hard to pick holes in the favourite EPATANTE and she is going to be the selection and a confident one at that. Sometimes people can get it in their heads to oppose the favourite because it’s a poor renewal but with so many questions over her rivals she looks to have an obvious chance of taking the big prize. If you can excuse her run in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival (where she was sent off fav) then she would be a really short priced fav. Nicky Henderson said she wasn’t herself that day and that the flu jab interfered massively with her preparation. What we do know if she hasn’t done anything wrong this term, winning impressively at Newbury before following up in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Challenging on the bit before quickening clear. She gets 7lb too for the mares’ allowance and will be hard to stop I think. Last year’s Triumph winner and stablemate Pentland Hills is the biggest danger according to the betting but he hasn’t been seeing out his races and even with his wind being tinkered with I can’t have him at that price. Ballyandy doesn’t get close so I can’t have him given he was chinned by that rival at Haydock last time. Cilaos Emery has been supplemented by Willie Mullins and looks a danger but I doubt he’ll be good enough to overhaul the favourite, even if putting in a career best. I can see McManus coming late so the 10/3 could be more like 5/2 on the off. If you want one at a double-figure price that I think might hit the frame then it’s Coeur Sublime. He’s around 16/1 and he’ll come there travelling, in a weak year he may well run into a place.
Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle 4.10
It was heartbreak at last year’s meeting for backers of BENIE DES DIEUX as she came crashing down at the last when clear and set to win the race. She returns this year having won all 3 starts since including the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil. She has only actually run once this term but as we know goes well fresh and was mightily impressive at Gowran winning the Galmoy Hurdle, slamming dual Cheltenham Festival winner Penhill by 21 lengths. The way Willie Mullins talks about her is infectious “probably the best mare he has ever trained” and if she brings her A-game she won’t be beaten. Now I know Honeysuckle goes for the race and that certainly adds some spice but however I break it down I keep coming back to the favourite and she should prove the answer. Henry de Bromhead’s mare is a perfect 7-7 over hurdles and some argue she should be closer in the betting to the fav. I think it’s sure to deliver from a racing perspective and hopefully it’s compensation for backers of Willie Mullins’ 9yo. The market is interesting if you take the top two out and I’d put forward Roksana to pick up the pieces again in terms of a place (around evens without the top two). She obviously won the race last year benefitting from the last flight spill and is a decent mare in her own right. I think she’ll edge out Stormy Ireland who might go too hard off the front. Lady Buttons has a big following and lines up here at 25/1 but I think it’s a big ask for her to get involved given she could only manage fourth in it 12 months ago.
Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase 4.50
Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore took this last year with the impressive A Plus Tard. They have a good chance again with Trainwreck. He is yet to score over fences though and isn’t overly convincing. Given how competitive it looks I’ve taken three against the field. IMPERIAL AURA is a horse I like a lot and the only thing off-putting is his price as it continues to get shorter but I have to include him in my selections. He made the perfect start to chasing winning at Fakenham before chasing home Pym in a well-contested race here before being narrowly edged out by Simply The Betts last time. He is up 7lb but is open to plenty of improvement as still looks quite raw so I think his position as favourite is justified. He looks sure to go close! My second fancy in the race is HOLD THE NOTE for Mick Channon. He travelled notably well before being outstayed by Two For Gold at Warwick and the drop back to this trip looks a massive plus. He is progressive and is another with scope to improve (which you need to obviously to win this). A mark of 145 looks very appealing to me and I can’t have him out the frame (at the least). Cracking each way bet! I was going to try and find one at a big price for my third selection and Earlofthecotswolds and Highest Sun made some appeal but on digging deeper I couldn’t leave out ESPOIR DE GUYE for Venetia Williams. He has been so impressive the last twice, winning head in chest at Exeter before following up in the mud at Ascot. A 14lb hike obviously demands more but he might have the class to take it in his stride and is another live danger to those nearer the top of the betting. I know connections are expecting a big, big run! The biggest danger not mentioned is probably Galvin for Gordon Elliott. He has been brought along gradually and caught the eye running on under tender handling when second at Punchestown last time. He is likely to improve but does need to.
Cheltenham Festival Day 1 Selections ADD STRAIGHT TO YOUR BET365 BET SLIP
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 1.30 Shishkin and Chantry House
Racing Post Arkle 2.10 Notebook NAP
Ultima Handicap Chase 2.50 Kildisart, Who Dares Wins and Mister Malarky
Champion Hurdle 3.30 Epatante NB
Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle 4.10 Benie Des Dieux
Novices’ Handicap Chase 4.50 Imperial Aura, Hold The Note and Espoir De Guye
National Hunt Challenge Cup 5.30 Value Tip! Pays 25/1!