Cheltenham tips: One to enjoy in Champion Hurdle despite the absence


hear the roar welcoming the opening of the Cheltenham Festival tomorrow and you’ll soon realize how much you missed it.

With two rookie races of nine riders or less, day one reflects the field size issues that have become a major concern in British racing – but the opening still goes back in time.

Nicky Henderson provides a hot favorite and an apparent second string that might be the best of them all. And if he can’t win it, Willie Mullins probably will.

This Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30) has only nine starters but he has so many assets. Henderson’s pair, Constitution Hill and Jonbon, are yet to be beaten. Jonbon, a brother of Douvan, appeals in every way, with the brisk pace likely set by Dysart Dynamo to put his endurance first.

The preference, however, goes to the Dysart Dynamo stablemate, Kilcruit. It’s hard to believe it took him three tries to win a first hurdle and his jumps are always a concern, but he should have won the Bumper here last year.

Constitution Hill was bought and sold by Barry Geraghty, who said on Friday he felt his former boss Henderson was confident about the situation of his horses, despite a worrying 13% success rate for the yard in February.

Kilcruit (right) finished second in last year’s Champion Bumper

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the Sporting Life Arkle (2.10) looks like an ordinary renewal. When Sprinter Sacre won the Arkle in 2012, he was the first favorite to win in a Cheltenham Festival novice hunt in a quarter of a century; now seven of the last 10 Arkles have been won by side shots.

Without Ferny Hollow (injured), it’s up for grabs. Maybe his stable mate High In Colors can provide some value in each direction. Fallen last time, he jumped well on his hunting debut and finished third in Triumph last year.

Alan King’s Edwardstone dismissal of Third Time Lucki last time out showed just how good he is. He’s only a nominal rookie and finished fifth in the County Hurdle last year.

the Ultima Handicap Steeplechase Hunt (2.50) is remarkable for Frodo with a whopping 164. Even without his abnormal weight compared to the others, there wouldn’t be a more popular winner.

Trainer of blurr, Gordon Elliott, was banned 12 months ago and needless to say his first Cheltenham winner this year will be a moving one. As a novice who completed all four chase starts and raced superbly well behind Galopin Des Champs here last year, Floueur’s claims under Jordan Gainford are rock solid.

The highlight of the first day is the Unibet Hurdle Champion (3.30). Undefeated superstar Honeysuckle has every chance to win again and every time she’s up against you end up looking stupid.

Everything comes at a price, however, and it might be worth switching up Mullins’ greatness here. enjoy it hasn’t been seen since a demolition job in the Supreme 12 months ago, clocking a slightly lower time than what Honeysuckle achieved on drier ground later in the day.

Expect Paul Townend to follow Rachael Blackmore and maybe do it for the toe. We need a bit of luck, but it’s much shorter and wasn’t particularly impressive in Leopardstown last time.

Besides, only Teahupoo has an apparent chance. His bloodless victory over Gowran on a ground he would have offended cemented himself as a potential star of the future, although the future is now.

Ireland’s monopoly on Close the Mares Brothers Obstacle (4.10) seems certain to continue. burning victory should confirm Punchestown’s superiority over Queens Brook on this ground and is tempting in every way.

the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Obstacle (4.50) is oversubscribed, and it’s as compelling a renewal as we’ve seen in racing history. Paul Nolan-trained Dabiroun won the first-ever Fred Winter in 2005. Possibly a stable mate HMS Seahorsea Galileo-bred girl on the flat, can deliver under Bryan Cooper.

That said, the whole cat is that Mullins-trained French rookie Gaelic Warrior is miles ahead of the handicapper. Its price is accordingly – or maybe 9-4 represents value.

They close with the Ukraine Appeal National Hunt Challenge Cup (5h30). vanillawinner of Albert Bartlett last year, can reverse Naas’ form with Stattler under veteran amateur Derek O’Connor.

Tips for the first day of the Cheltenham Festival

  • 1h30 – Kilcruit
  • 2:10 – Colorful
  • 2h50 – Blur
  • 3:30 p.m. – Enjoy it
  • 4:10 – Burning Victory
  • 4:50 – HMS Seahorse
  • 5:30 p.m. – Vanilla

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