Cheltenham Festival Tuesday tips – Day one best bets through the card
Cheltenham Festival day one best bets through the card
It is finally here! The 2021 Cheltenham Festival kicks off on Tuesday at 1.20pm with the curtain-raising Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and we’ve looked through the day one racecard to pick out our Cheltenham Festival Tuesday tips for each race.
It will be a Cheltenham Festival like no other with no packed grandstands and no famous ‘Cheltenham Roar’ to herald in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle start and officially kick off the ‘greatest show on turf’ – the most important four days in the National Hunt calendar.
Despite there being no crowds in attendance there’ll be plenty of TV coverage throughout the four days with the ITV Racing cameras on hand to cover the best of the action from Prestbury Park and on day one of the Cheltenham Festival six of the seven races will be shown live including the feature Champion Hurdle which goes to post at 3.05pm.
We’ve taken a look at the day one racecard for the Cheltenham Festival and picked out our selections for all seven races.
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL TUESDAY TIPS – BEST BETS ON DAY ONE OF THE FESTIVAL
1:20 Cheltenham – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m½f
The curtain raiser to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival has cut up quite badly with just eight runners standing their ground at the final declaration stage including ante-post favourite Appreciate It who should prove a tough nut to crack.
However despite winning all three starts this campaign which includes two Grade Ones he might prove vulnerable with the ground drying out and he was made to work harder than backers would have liked to fend off reopposing Ballyadam to land the Chanelle Pharma Novices’ Hurdle during the Dublin Racing Festival.
Blue Lord was back in third that day, running on well from the back and this stiffer test could see a big run while Metier is progressive and won the Tolworth Hurdle back in January in terrible ground. Harry Fry’s charge has yet to run on ground quicker than soft over hurdles and will have to prove effective on the drying conditions.
This brings us back to BALLYADAM who has twice finished behind Appreciate It this term but there’s cautious optimism that the Fame And Glory gelding might be able to turn the tables this time around. One of a number of runners transferred from Gordon Elliott to Henry de Bromhead by owner Cheveley Park Stud he could well have benefitted from a change of scenery and there’s a possibility of him finding improvement for his new yard.
A former point-to-point winner he might not have been at his best in testing ground at Leopardstown the last twice and could appreciate better conditions this time around having won in the past on yielding conditions. He’s also a Grade One winner in his own right, taking the Royal Bond Hurdle although that perhaps wasn’t a particularly strong renewal of that contest.
He will have to improve to topple Appreciate It given that one has beaten him twice already; nevertheless he might be worth chancing to find some improvement for his new yard and with drying ground likely to be more in his favour; while big-race jockey Jack Kennedy has yet to finish out of the places in his three rides in the race, winning with Labaik in 2017.
1:55 Cheltenham – Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m
Only six runners will go to post for the second race of the day on Cheltenham Festival Tuesday and the absence of Energumene from the line-up has taken a lot of the attraction away from the Arkle Novices’ Chase which ought now to be a penalty kick for SHISHKIN and Nicky Henderson’s charge ought to be hard to beat now as he bids to add a second Festival win to his record.
Last season’s Triumph Hurdle third Allmankind has done little wrong over fences this term and is unbeaten in three starts including the recent Kingmaker Chase at Warwick. The Sea The Moon gelding’s jumping became quite ragged as that race went on however and he’ll not be able to make the same mistakes this time around in a tougher contest.
Dan Skelton’s charge is likely to be the pace angle as he was twelve months ago although he appeared to fold quite tamely from the second last and was well-held by Goshen when that one came down. That apparent failure to get home also cropped up on his reappearance here in October when third to Botox Has over hurdles but he’s taken his form up a level since switching to chasing, winning the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase in good style prior to that Warwick win.
However Shishkin does look a top-class prospect over fences, winning all three in bloodless fashion and latterly seeing off the reopposing Eldorado Allen by almost nine lengths in the recent Lightning Novices’ Chase.
Holes can be picked in his form over fences, he’s not really come up against an opponent of real note and all three starts have come over flatter tracks than Cheltenham although he proved he handled this layout well enough when battling to his Supreme Novices’ Hurdle success twelve months ago.
Proven also on better ground he won’t mind any underfoot conditions whether the ground continues to dry up or if it softens up prior to the race and he looks the one to beat for a trainer who has a good record in the race having won it in the past with Altior, Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre in recent years.
It’s hard to think that anything other than a clear round will thwart him in his bid to win this race and uphold his perfect chase record and he’ll surely prove a class apart from this field.
2:30 Cheltenham – Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (GBB Race) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m1f
The first handicap of the Festival and a typically competitive renewal of this Grade Three contest. Despite his age going against him it may be worth having an interest on the veteran VINTAGE CLOUDS who makes just his second start following a wind operation and sports first-time cheekpieces as he takes another crack at this prize.
Sue Smith’s charge has featured in the last four renewals of this contest, falling behind Un Temps Pour Tout when still holding chances in 2017 and then finishing third, runner-up and eighth in successive years.
Sue Smith’s charge hadn’t been seen at his best in a couple of earlier runs this term at Aintree and Warwick, but he shaped better than the bare result latest at Kelso when finishing third behind Claud And Goldie. The handicapper has eased him 2lbs following that run and he features here 1lb lower in the weights than when chasing home Beware The Bear in this race back in 2019, while he won the 2020 Peter Marsh Chase off this rating.
He’s versatile with regards to underfoot conditions and while he’s certainly not getting any younger he still remains well-treated on his old form and the application of cheekpieces now might just perk him up.
Of course veterans have a dismal record in this contest and it has largely been younger horses who’ve come to the fore in this race in recent years with the last 11-year old to win this being Flyer’s Nap back in 1997 while only four 10-year olds have won since then so age trends are very much against the selection and he’s perhaps not the force of old. However given his performances at this venue and having been given a chance by the assessor he could be sparked back into life by a return here with the headgear now applied and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he were to out-run his odds and make the frame.
3:05 Cheltenham – Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) (GBB Race) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m½f
The feature race of the day could be a cracker with Henry de Bromhead’s star mare Honeysuckle looking to maintain her unbeaten record, while defending champion Epatante will bid to return to winning ways having disappointed in the Christmas Hurdle behind reopposing Silver Streak who is going from strength to strength this term.
Unbeaten in ten outings including last season’s Mares’ Hurdle Honeysuckle was an impressive winner of the Irish Champion Hurdle; but she bossed that race and kicked off the home turn into a lead that the others couldn’t claw back, beating Abacadabras and Sharjah who both also line up. She may not get a similar scenario this time and a fast two-miles could just make her vulnerable.
Epatante was reportedly in season when beaten by Silver Streak at Kempton over Christmas and the defending champion is hard to ignore if back to her best; while better ground will surely suit Silver Streak despite running well on softer ground and he’s another danger.
GOSHEN however gets the vote having bounced back to his best in no uncertain terms with a bloodless victory in the Kingwell Hurdle and Gary Moore’s star can atone for his last-flight fall in last season’s Triumph Hurdle when well clear.
The Triumph Hurdle has been something of a graveyard for those with future Champion Hurdle hopes with the tough Katchit the last to win the Triumph/Champion Hurdle double in 2007/08. Goshen for all intents and purposes can be considered the winner twelve months ago despite the official record saying otherwise, blundering his jockey out of the saddle when holding a ten lengths’ margin and looking likely to pull further clear.
That run proved his ability to handle this track and his subsequent runs on the flat are easily are easily overlooked. He was found to have had a fibrillating heart following a disappointing return to hurdling in the International Hurdle, but that performance was banished to history with an impressive return to form where he beat Song For Someone – who had beaten Silver Streak in the International – by 22 lengths.
If he continues to build on that performance then the sky could be the limit for him and he’s still only a five-year old so has plenty of time to further find improvement. Better ground also shouldn’t be an issue as he was a good ground winner on the flat prior to switching codes and if he’s none the worse for his Wincanton exertions in heavy ground and arrives here in top form then he looks to hold solid claims of exorcising his Triumph Hurdle demons and snap the hoodoo of that race as a Champion Hurdle precursor.
3:40 Cheltenham – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle) (Grade 1) (GBB Race) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m4f
Roksana won this race in 2019, capitalising on the fall of Benie Des Dieux, but Dan Skelton’s charge could only finish fourth in defense of her crown twelve months ago to cap a winless campaign. However the Dubai Destination mare is 2-3 this term, only meeting with defeat behind Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle.
She’s shown significant improvement this term since being stepped up to three miles so it is a somewhat strange decision to see her dropped back to this trip given the Stayers’ Hurdle now looks a bit easier with Thyme Hill out of the frame and she’d have had solid claims in Thursday’s feature.
The nine-year old is arguably the class act in the field but she could prove vulnerable back at this trip where CONCERTISTA looks the one to beat with Willie Mullins’ charge likely to have further improvement to come.
Runner-up in the 2019 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle she continued to find a couple too good last term before getting off the mark in that same race twelve months ago where she ran out a convincing 12 lengths’ victor over reopposing Dolcita and a few others who also feature.
The Nathaniel mare has continued her progress this term where she’s won both her starts in facile fashion, beating Minella Melody each time – that rival also reopposes – and latterly by almost seven lengths at Leopardstown in December.
She’s likely to continue to improve and having been freshened up by a break she could prove a tough nut to crack here with multiple form lines giving her the beating of a good chunk of this field on past runs and there’s every chance she can collect a first Grade One prize.
4:15 Cheltenham – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Registered As The Fred Winter) (Grade 3) (GBB Race) Cl1 (4yo) 2m½f
This could be one of the most competitive races of the entire four days and it might be worth taking a chance on the improving ZOFFANIEN to continue his progress with Denis Hogan’s charge showing improvement with every run and arriving here on the back of an impressive victory at Naas.
The Zoffany gelding has only once finished out of the frame in six outings over hurdles, but he’s shown race-by-race progress and while he’s been beaten by rivals Coltor and Druid’s Altar in starts this season he’s lost nothing in defeat in either of those runs.
He carried his head awkwardly on the latter occasion behind Joseph O’Brien’s charge, but he showed no such quirk next time and he’s getting better with experience as he showed when readily landing the odds last time out with a nine lengths’ defeat of Rock Chica where he travelled well into the contest and a late mistake barely halted his momentum.
This will certainly call for improvement but he’s unpenalised for that win and carries just 10-13 into the race while the booking of Richard Johnson catches the eye on the Irish raider and there could be more to come with the likelihood of a strong pace and experience of large fields both positives.
The ground needn’t be an issue either and he’s won on quicker ground in France although he has shown he can handle cut also so he shouldn’t be inconvenienced by underfoot conditions and he can run a big race in the penultimate race of the afternoon on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
4:50 Cheltenham – Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) (GBB Race) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m6f
This race has traditionally been restricted to amateur riders, but with the ban on amateurs riding as a consequence of Covid-19 on grassroots sports sees professional riders enter the fray for this race which is the longest race of the first day of the Festival.
The 3m 6f contest is one which leading trainer Paul Nicholls has yet to win but the Ditcheat trainer looks to have big chances of righting that statistic with NEXT DESTINATION who despite being a nine-year old is very low mileage for one of his age and this test should prove right up his street.
A high-class performer for Willie Mullins and with previous Cheltenham Festival experience to call upon the Dubai Destination gelding looks one to keep onside in the Festival finale.
Fourth to Fayonagh in the 2017 Champion Bumper he won four of his five starts as a novice hurdler during the 2017/18 campaign with his sole defeat coming in the 2018 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle behind Samcro. He bounced back from that however by beating future multiple Grade One-winning chaser Delta Work at Punchestown.
Subsequently absent for 920 days and moving from Closutton to Ditcheat he made his return in the West Yorkshire Hurdle behind Roksana; but returning to chasing thereafter he’s since won both starts at Newbury and Warwick respectively, beating Fiddlerontheroof on the latter occasion where despite looking in trouble for a while he got better and stronger as the race unfolded and this marked step up in trip could unlock further improvement.
He eventually won a shade comfortably latest in the Hampton Novices’ Chase, beating Colin Tizzard’s runner by just over one length and the flat-spot he’s been hitting in his races ought to be of lesser effect over this longer trip while he’s shown himself to be effective on a range of underfoot conditions so the ground come Tuesday shouldn’t inconvenience.
He looks an ideal type for this contest and he should give a very good account of himself as he bids to give Paul Nicholls his first winner in the race.