Day one of the Festival sees the return of crowds and the return of the famous Cheltenham roar. Honeysuckle will be the talking point of the day however you couldn’t kick the meeting off with a more exciting supreme novices’ hurdle. Below is a rundown of each of the Graded Races as well as selections for the two handicaps on a fascinating opening day.
1:30 – Supreme Novices Hurdle
DYSART DYNAMO (9/4) looked like an absolute machine when galloping his rivals into submission at Punchestown. He’s 4 from 4 and Willie Mullins had the option of the Ballymore with him but decided this race would be a better fit.
CONSTITUTION HILL (9/4) is the first of two Nicky Henderson darts in this years Supreme. He has looked very good at Sandown however I don’t think he’s beaten much, and he could want the ground here at Cheltenham to come up soft.
JONBON (9/2) is the other of Nicky’s who is also unbeaten under rules. Many people seem to be crabbing Jonbon, but I thought he was very impressive at Haydock last time out, he quickened well after three out and did the same after two out and put the race to bed in good style. Although he’s a quirky individual I think that extra little bit of experience will stand him in good stead.
KILCRUIT (6/1) was very unlucky not be a Festival winner last year. Two below average runs kicked off his season however he seemed to be back to his old self with new tactics at Punchestown. It’ll be very interesting to see how they ride him with stablemate Dysart Dynamo also likely to go from the front.
MIGHTY POTTER (8/1) showed good heart to win the future champions at Leopardstown at Christmas and has been out away for this since. The likely fast run pace will definitely suit and there’s no doubt he’ll be running on strongly up the hill.
It would be very surprising to see any of the outsiders go close. BRING ON THE NIGHT (18/1), SHALLWEHAVEONEMORE (50/1), SILENT REVOLUTION (80/1) & JPR ONE (100/1) round of the field of nine for the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival.
2:10 – Arkle Novices Chase
EDWARDSTONE (5/2) has jumped with such fluency after being brought down on seasonal reappearance. Although his form doesn’t have much substance, he couldn’t of been more impressive. It’ll be interesting to see whether he can outwit the Irish who carry a large contingent.
BLUE LORD (4/1) was a lucky winner at the Dublin racing festival in my opinion. He seemed to have second in the Supreme last year before falling at the last so there won’t be any trouble with the track. His jumping needs improvement but he has been impressive this year.
RIVERE D’ETEL (7/2) was a very unlucky loser at Leopardstown and would have won had for a mistake at the last, as well as having to switch on the run in late on. She has been consistent all season long and her heart cannot be faulted. She was super impressive when putting it up to Ferny Hollow who at the time was an even money favourite for this race at the time.
HAUT EN COULEURS (7/1) was impressive on his debut over fences however, after falling so early on its hard to know how confident he will be. The fact he’s shorter in the market Saint Sam could be a telling factor however, he did show a higher level of hurdling last year.
SAINT SAM (9/1) did well to finish as close as he did when third in the Irish Arkle after going hard from the front and missing a few fences. He was sensational on his seasonal reappearance and that form has worked out very well.
COEUR SUBLIME (12/1) is a crazy price in my view and has a load of questions to answer. He was expected to win last time out and that race was a very weak beginners Chase.
MAGIC DAZE (16/1) was behind a smart pair of rivals at Cork, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her bang in there with the mares allowance.
GABYNAKO (20/1), BRAVE SEASCA (28/1), WAR LORD (40/1), RED ROOKIE (100/1) are the other runners.
3:30 – Champion Hurdle
HONEYSUCKLE (4/7) is looking to take her record to fifteen unbeaten wins. I don’t see any reason why not, she puts her races to bed in effortless fashion and I see no reason why she won’t be back in the winner’s enclosure.
APPRECIATE IT (4/1) is the unexposed sort of the field. Not been seen out since his Supreme romp last year, but it would be some training performance if he was able to win this after 365 days off the track. However, if anyone is able to pull it off it W P Mullins.
Teahupoo (10/1) has been impressive this season however he’s shown nowhere near the form of Honeysuckle.
EPATANTE (16/1) was a winner of this race in 2020 and third last year. There’s no doubt in my mind she’ll be bang in there but feel she’ll fall short behind honeysuckle and run into a place.
ADAGIO (18/1) has been a superstar performer for David Pipe. His second in the Greatwood looks like a very good piece of form on paper however, it’s not Champion Hurdle winning form.
ZANAHIYR (22/1) seems the overpriced one to me here. Second to Honeysuckle at the Dublin racing festival in February and he absolutely clattered the first and to be honest it should of taken him out of the race. He was too keen in the Triumph last year and I think the old course will suit him better than the new.
TOMMY’S OSCAR (25/1) has been a sensation for trainer Ian Hamilton. He has won his last four starts, the latest being a Grade Two. There’s no doubt that he deserves his shot at the race however, he’s not got the class to win a race of this nature.
SAINT ROI (50/1) has been disappointing this season and would be huge shock if he went close.
GLORY AND FORTUNE (100/1) won the Betfair Hurdle after being second to Epatante in the Christmas hurdle at Kempton.
NOT SO SLEEPY (100/1) ran very poorly last time out and would need a huge step back in the right direction to even give a showing let alone go close to winning.
4:10 – MARES HURDLE
TELMESOMETHINGGIRL (11/4) is sure to run well suited by a fast pace which she will get with the amount of front runners in this field. Rachael Blackmore will be hoping to do what she did last year on her in the Mares Novice Hurdle and come late with a powering finish up the hill.
QUEENS BROOK (4/1) has been very well backed since her second to Burning Victory at Punchestown. She was running on late that day and according to trainer Gordon Elliot she was only 80% ready for that run and will come on a long way for the run.
STORMY IRELAND (11/2) was a good winner at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day winning the Relkeel Hurdle in good fashion. She was fifth in this race in 2020 which seemed to be a race with higher quality however, she may not get her own way out in front.
BURNING VICTORY (8/1) is yet another runner who likes to go from the front. She was impressive last time out but her tank did seem to be emptying when hitting the line and I just wonder if that may have taken it out of her.
ECHOES IN RAIN (9/1) was third in the Irish Champion Hurdle when pulling very hard. If she settles there is no doubt in my mind, she has the ability to win this however, with the big crowds and the Cheltenham roar, being able to settle will be a huge if.
MRS MILNER (12/1) was a very good winner of the Pertempts last season however she hasn’t really fired yet this season and maybe the return to the track could bring back the spark.
MARIES ROCK (12/1) has been up and down this year. Two good wins and two no shows so far and the strong pace will suit. Nico could well just drop her out the back and come as late as possible.
HEAVEN HELP US (14/1) was a wide margin winner of the Coral Cup at the festival last year and has shown that was no fluke in her runs this season. However, being a front runner, she won’t be getting it all her way out in front and that could be a worry.
MARTELLO SKY (18/1) has been a star for Lucy Wadham this year. The way she won at Kempton was very eyecatching and it would seem that she would love the stiff uphill finish.
INDEFATIGABLE (25/1), WESTERN VICTORY (50/1) & NADA TO PRADA (150/1) conclude the runners.
5:30 – National Hunt Chase
RUN WILD FRED (2/1) has been up there in the betting for this all season long and seems to love a long trip. It’s often a big test for novices to stay this trip and with him being a second season novice he has the extra experience which could prove to be the telling factor.
STATTLER (5/2) is definitely the classy horse in the field. He didn’t seem to stay in the Albert Bartlett last year where he didn’t seem to find anything when coming under pressure. He looked very resolute when winning at Naas in January and that to me looked like he had matured into a horse who can settle off the pace and get into a rhythm.
VANILLIER (4/1) was a very impressive winner at the festival last year however has struggled over fences this year. His jumping leaves many question marks and although he’s shown he stays and has course form I don’t think he jumps well enough to win this.
PATS FANCY (7/1) is carrying the flag for the English and there has been money for him. His second to Bravemansgame is very strong form and he had a couple of two good wins prior to that. He jumps well and settles and therefore I think can run a huge race.
ON THE ROPES (10/1) has been there or thereabouts in good handicap chases this season over in Ireland and seems to be game enough. Whether he’s up to winning this is a different question, but you cannot fault his consistency.
BRAESIDE (12/1) looks to want softer ground then he’s going to get and personally think he’s plenty short enough in the betting.
BEATTHEBULLET (66/1) rounds off a disappointing small field of seven and will be hoping the application of first time blinkers could spark him into life for Rebecca Curtis.
1:30 – Kilcruit 6/1 ew
2:10 – Saint Sam 9/1 ew
2:50 – Floueur 9/1 ew & Fantastikas 11/1 ew
3:30 – Honeysuckle 4/7
4:10 – Telmesomethinggirl 11/4
4:50 – Gaelic Warrior 5/2
5:30 – Stattler 5/2