Today is the start of the UKs biggest horse racing festival and some fantastic offers from bookmakers. This preview is the first of 4 special articles throughout this week.
Cheltenham Festival 2018 – Day 1
The 2018 Cheltenham Festival gets underway on Tuesday 13th March, with the Unibet Champion Hurdle the highlight of day 1. An expected all-star card features four Grade 1 races and looks like being an exhilarating start to the most important week on the jump racing calendar. Here we preview day 1’s action:
13.30 – 2m½f Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
20 runners line up for the first race of the Festival, with favourite, Getabird, going for trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh. However, the expected heavy ground could prevent him from being able to quicken away from the field as he has in previous races, so at 15/8 looks too short a price. First Flow has a record of 3-3 over hurdles and will relish the recent rain. He can cause an upset to get the Festival off to a spectacular start for trainer Kim Bailey. Summerville Boy beat this contests second-favourite, Kalashnikov, in a Grade 1 at Sandown in January on heavy ground and looks a good current price to place at least at 8/1.
First Flow – Win 10/1
Summerville Boy – E/W 8/1
2.10 – 2m Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Five go in the next race, with Mullins and Walsh partnering the favourite again. Footpad, the Evens money favourite was too good for Petit Mouchoir when they last met in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown in February and he is likely to be too good again here. Saint Calvados has won impressively on all 3 chase starts since joining Harry Whittington and could have a big say in this one. He looks a decent 11/4 price.
Footpad – Win Evs
Saint Calvados – E/W 11/4
2.50 – 3m1f Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)
A competitive handicap chase which will be won by the team that can outstay the rest. Vintage Clouds, an 8/1 chance, was in contention for this same race last year before falling 2 fences out. He has shown decent form since on soft ground and if getting around this time, should be involved at the finish. Favourite, Coo Star Sivola 5/1, has been close to landing races at the last 2 Festivals and produced a good win at Exeter over this distance two weeks ago. A big run is expected from him.
Coo Star Sivola – Win 5/1
Vintage Clouds – E/W 8/1
3.30 – 2m½f Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Buveur D’Air made light work of his rivals in this race last year and is the strong favourite to retain his title. Beaten just once over hurdles, the 8/15 favourite should bring trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty their first win of the Festival. Faugheen was the star attraction a few years ago, winning this race in 2015, but an injury and long absence has never seen him get back to his best. He should still run well and is likely to place, so at 13/2 looks a good each-way price.
Buveur D’Air – Win 8/15
Faugheen – E/W 13/2
4.10 – 2 m4f OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Although the odds look very short at 4/7 for Apple’s Jade to win this race again after last year’s success, it’s easy to see why they are. An ultra-consistent and high-class performer, who really should win this well. Benie Des Dieux and La Bague Au Roi look like the only challengers, but Warren Greatrex’s runner has won the last twice, at Kempton and Ascot to show great recent form.
Apple’s Jade – Win 4/7
La Bague Au Roi – E/W 6/1
4.50 – 4m National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) (Class 1) (5yo+)
This could be a real slog on the heavy ground over 4m, but Sizing Tennessee 8/1, acts on it and is one of the more likely stayers. He looks to have a good chance now also jumping much better than ever. Ms Parfois 13/2, has been showing some real consistency over fences at 3m and is one of the more likely to be suited by the trip.
Sizing Tennessee – Win 8/1
Ms Parfois – E/W 13/2
5.30 – 2m4½f Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (5yo+ 0-145)
A competitive end to the days racing and Mister Whitaker 8/1, can finish it on a high for trainer Mick Channon and jockey Brian Hughes. A winner of a 2m5f handicap here in January when clear of the rest, another victory can follow. Rather Be 10/1, is a useful hurdler who was impressive on Towcester chase debut in December. Failed to get around at Plumpton in January but won well again at Fakenham last month and can be among the places.
Mister Whitaker – Win 8/1
Rather Be – E/W 10/1