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Cheltenham Day 1 Preview

The Cheltenham Festival is to adults what Christmas is to kids. It is one of the great four days on the sporting calendar. Go Sporting has various hospitality packages throughout the week so that you can see the action in style.

As well as this our resident tipster will be going through the card each day and previewing each race and will hopefully be picking out a winner or two!

Here’s the tips for those who haven’t got time to read the whole post:

  • Supreme Novices Hurdle – Asterion Forlonge win 11/4
  • Arkle – Notebook win 11/4, Rogue Vif 16/1 ew
  • Ultima Handicap Chase – The Conditional win 8/1, Kildistart 10/1 each way.
  • Champion Hurdle – Pentland Hills win 11/2, Darver Star 12/1 each way
  • Mares Hurdle – Straight Forecast 1st Bennie Des Dieux, 2nd Honeysuckle
  • Northern Trust Chase – Hold The Note win 7/1, Trainwreck 12/1 each way
  • National Hunt Chase – Springfield Fox each way 7/1

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The action kicks off with The Supreme Novices Hurdle which is run over the bare two miles. This, and the Champion Hurdle, are likely to be the most frenetic races of the week. A couple of years ago Gordon Elliott caused a shock when his 50/1 shot Labaik came sweeping past the other runners to win with something in hand. It would be a huge shock to see a big priced winner this time around.

The event has been dominated by Envoi Allen and would he/wouldn’t he run and Gordon Elliott confirmed his target is the Ballymore Hurdle (on the Wednesday) instead. This opens the race up for a few namely Mrs Donnelly’s two speedsters Asteroin Forlonge (11/4) and Shiskin (3/1) trained by powerhouses Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson respectively. Asteroin Forlonge has done most of his running in France and relishes some cut in the ground. He showed an incredible turn of foot to win at Leopardstown 6 weeks ago and bar from jumping right at his hurdles on occasions he looks seriously impressive. Trained by last year’s winning trainer he seems to tick all the boxes. Shiskin has won his last two and impressed doing so. It’s up for argument as to the quality of horse that he beat but he’s certainly done nothing wrong and is sure to go well for Nicky Henderson who won the Supreme with Altior in 2016.

Henderson has another live chance with Chantry House, the mount of Barry Geraghty, and money has come in for him having been backed from 9/1 into 11/2. He’s a progressive type but there is not much substance to his form so if you are backing him you’re backing him on the basis of what he could be rather than what he is right now. Meanwhile, Colin Tizzard is represented by Fiddlerontheroof who won the Grade 1 Tolworth but he seems to lack a few gears. If it turned into a bog he’d not be without a chance. Abacadbras came 2nd to Envoi Allen in the Royal Bond and came 3rd in last year’s bumper. Clearly talented and is the mount of Davy Russell but the story of his short career is that he always seems to be the bridesmaid and looks to be that again. As far as the others go it is hard to see any troubling those that have been written about here. Captain Guiness is lightly raced and has shown promise so at 16/1 he’s not without a place chance and at a big price Berkshire Royal was a good flat horse and joined Mullins so has serious pedigree but he’s also not yet run over hurdles so would take a brave person to back him. Having said that, at 50/1 he’s not without a chance of running in to a place.

Go Sporting Tip – Asteroin Forlonge 11/4 win.

The next race is the Arkle which is another fast and furious event but this time it is run over fences and not hurdles. The Arkle has quite the roll of honour as past winners include Sprinter Sacre (Cue Card came 2nd in this race!), Simonsig, Un De Sceaux, Douvan and Altior. This years renewal doesn’t appear to be backed full of future legends but that is not to say there are no exciting horses in the lineup, in fact far from it.

At the head of the betting, and rightly so, is Henry De Bromhead’s Notebook. He’s 4 from 4 chasing and an excellent jumper. We can’t see him being beaten but his biggest test will be how he handles the 10 minutes before the race begins. He’s known to get a bit agitated and if he works himself up too much then his chances of winning reduce greatly. If, however, he takes the preliminaries well then we believe he will win and win well.

Notebook will face stiff competition however in the shape of Fakir D’oudairies, who as a 5 year old, has an incredibly exciting future ahead of him. The start of his chasing career has been promising but he’s a little behind Notebook in terms of ratings and we think he will likely be competing for minor money here. Brewin’upastorm is liked by many and has an exciting trainer jockey combination. The trainer is the up and coming new star of national hunt – Olly Murphy – whilst the jockey is the vintage Richard Johnson. The worry for this horse is a lack of a recent run having not run for almost 6 months but he goes well fresh and has experience of Cheltenham so he’s certainly not without a chance. Willie Mullins, winner of this race for 4 of the last 5 years, is represented by Cash Back who came 2nd to Notebook in February. He’ll be primed for this and Mullins’ horses often seem to get better with each run so rule him out at your peril. As far as the others go the only other horse that we think is worth considering is Harry Whittington’s Rouge Vif who won a grade 2 at Warwick 6 weeks ago and who will like the ground. He also has the talented Gavin Sheehan on board.

Go Sporting Tip – Notebook win 3/1, Rogue Vif 16/1 each way.

The third race on the card is the first handicap of the festival and is typically a very competitive renewal. Vinndication is the class act of the field but is also weighted to be that and he’s a bit fragile so given the weight he’s being asked to carry we believe he can be taken on. Discorama has rock solid form at Cheltenham the last two years, including a 2nd over the longer trip last year. However his last two runs have not added up to much and it’s possible he’s vulnerable once again. David Bridgewater’s The Conditional looks staggeringly well handicapped. He’s won over course and distance in October and proved that was no fluke when he came 2nd in the Ladbroke Trophy. He’s got one and a half less stone to contend with than Vinndication and he seems to relish big handicaps. We can see him going very well at a fair price (9/1). Another who is well handicapped is Kildistart who has also won at Cheltenham before. He won at Aintree in April and hasn’t been good since but he’s long been targeted for this race and is temptingtly priced. Who Dares Wins is a horse that seems to be equally good over fences as he is on the flat – having won at Chester earlier in the season. Mister Malarky, No Comment and Cobra De Mai have all been backed and it is easy to see why. They all have course form and are all trained by serial Cheltenham winners. A special mention should go to Cogry who loves it at Cheltenham and who will almost certainly be leading after one complete circuit but we imagine he will run out of puff before the finish.

Go Sporting Tip – The Conditional win 9/1, Kildistart 10/1 each way.

The big race of the day is the Champion Hurdle and it is fair to say it is not a classic renewal. Every horse seems capable of beating each other and there is certainly no stand out candidate. Sadly, last year’s winner Espoir D’Allen lost his life and he looked to be a real star. Other winners include Hurricane Fly, Faugheen and Annie Power and it is doubtful we’ll see a winner of their calibre this time around. However, from a betting perspective it is an interesting race as almost any horse can win it hence the attractive prices.

The favourite, and probably rightly so, is Nicky Henderson’s mare Epetante. She’s a 3/1 shot and run very well when winning at Kempton. However, despite being incredibly well supported she ran an absolute stinker the last time we saw her at Cheltenham (last year) and there’s major doubts if she can deal with the track (Kempton is a very flat track). Also, Nicky Henderson warned that Epetante didn’t seem quite herself last week and so there’s some doubts about her general well-being. Nicky Henderson has 3 other runners including Call Me Lord and Fusil Raffles who both have too many questions to answer for us to put them up with any confidence. His other runner also has questions to answer but we’re more prepared to take a risk with him and that’s last years Triumph winner Pentland Hills. He’s had a small wind operation and his last couple of races seemed to be his for the taking but seemed to run out of steam at just the wrong time. Last time out he was given a poor ride and got to the front too soon so a combination of the wind operation and a more canny ride could see him bang on the premises.

Ireland are well represented with Willie Mullins sending over Cilaos Emery who had been impressing chasing before reverting back to hurdles – presumably aimed very much at this race. He missed 2018 with injury but had looked impressive in 2019 so he’s certainly there with a chance and you can never rull out Willie Mullins. Mullins’ other horse is Rich Ricci’s Sharjah who is a deadly finisher and has run well in big Grade 1’s but never convinced at Cheltenham. Also, if it gets too soft you may want to swerve him. Supasundae is running in his 6th race at the festival and has performed admirably in each one without ever quite getting his nose in front and that seems like it will be the case once more. An interesting runner is Darver Star who rattled home at a big price in his last race against Honeysuckle and who is trained by last year’s winning trainer. He could well run into a place and depending on how hard they run upfront could even make a late charge for the line and nab first. Ballyandy, Silver Streak and Petit Mouchoir have all run creditably at Cheltenham before and look to do so again. Ballyandy in particular will stay all day and will likely finish in the top 4 without ever threatening for a win and at 25/1 is a tempting enough price.

Go Sporting Tip – Pentland Hills 6/1 win, Darver Star 12/1 ew

The Mares Hurdle is so often dominated by Willie Mullins. Who can forget the super mare that was Quvega or more recently Annie Power. In Bennie Des Dieux it looks like Mullins has another superstar on his hands. But for a final flight fall last year she’d have won by 10+ lengths and despite Henry De Bromhead’s mare Honeysuckle appearing to be an excellent horse in her own right it is impossible to see anything but a Bennie Des Dieux win. She’s a short price at 8/11 and despite the feeling Honeysuckle is a future superstar we just don’t see her beating Mullins’ mare. Everything else in the race won’t beat these two unless either have a fall like Bennie Des Dieux did last year.

Go Sporting Tip – Straight Forecast – 1st Bennie Des Diuex, 2nd Honeysuckle.

The Northern Trust Handicap, formerly known as the Close Brothers, is another exciting handicap and Imperial Aura heads up the market. She came a clear second at this course in January and is strongly respected but the more interesting horse is Hold The Note who has been backed in the last 48 hours. Connections of this horse won the same race two years ago with Mister Whittaker and Hold the Note seems to aimed at this race and ran very well at Warwick last time out and would’ve gone close at Kempton had it not been for a horse falling in front of him. It’s easy to make a case for a lot of horses in this race given that it is a handicap so they should all in theory have some sort of chance. Trainwreck is trained by last years winning trainer Henry De Bromhead and he claims he’s been running Trainwreck over the wrong trip which has meant his handicap is potentially too low. If money comes for him he will be very interesting and is currently available at around 12/1. Espoir De Guye has looked very progressive and was impressive at Ascot last time but that was on heavy ground whilst Galvin, the mount of Davy Russell, has been primed for this but is weak in the market.

Go Sporting Tip – Hold the note 8/1 Win, Trainwreck 12/1 each way.

The final race of the day is the National Hunt Chase and is for amateur riders. The top two in the market are not all that surprising given they feature the top two amateur jockey’s around and two of the most powerful yards. Willie Mullins and son combine for Carefully Selected who is available at 2/1 and there’s plenty to like about his chances including the fact he’s won his last 4 races. However, his jumping hasn’t always convinced and at 2/1 you’d want a horse you can trust and there’s that lingering question mark over him. Ravenhill is written by the “Codfather” himself – Jamie Codd who has an outstanding record at Cheltenham. He was beaten a head at the Kerry National and is a class act but he needs decent ground and so if you see any mention of soft or heavy in the going description then it’s perhaps best to steer clear. One that we like is Springfield Fox for Tom George and ridden by his son Noel. He’s won his last two and won them well and looks a very exciting prospect and at the prices we’d rather take a chance on him at 7/1. A lively outsider is The Hollow Ginge at 25/1 who will be the best supported horse of the day as the “ginge army” land at Cheltenham. There will be many a pint spilt should he win.

Go Sporting Tip – Springfield Fox 7/1 each way.

We hope you enjoy your day with us and get to back some winners!

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