It’s the first day of the Cheltenham Festival and Buveur D’Air could be the headline act as he bids to win back-to-back renewals of the Champion Hurdle. Meanwhile, many punters will be hoping Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh can get them off to a good start by winning the opening two races with Getabird and Footpad.
Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, 1.30
Ireland have had 6 winners and Great Britain 4
Only 1 favourite and 1 joint-favourite have won
Willie Mullins has trained 3 of the last 5 winners
Ruby Walsh has ridden 4 of the last 7 winners
7 of the last 10 winners had won last time out
SP’s have ranged from 2/1 to 25/1
Five 6-year-olds, four 5-year-olds, and one 7-year-old have been successful
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Summary
As there are so many offers available on the first race of the Cheltenham Festival, you simply must have a bet, but the big question is who on. Getabird was favourite in many ante-post lists for the Cheltenham Bumper last season but was forced to miss the race. However, after two wins over hurdles, his credentials look ideal.
Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and Rich Ricci have an enviable record in the race having won three of the last five renewals, and he fits most of the important stats. The problem with backing him is that only one favourite has won in the last 10-years and he could go off a shorter-price than any of them. Those looking to take the favourite on may want to consider the early ante-post favourite Mengli Khan who was conceding 6lb to Getabird last time and could improve for the fitting of a first-time tongue-tie.
Meanwhile, the best of the home contingent may be Betfair Hurdle winner Kalashnikov and the unbeaten hurdler First Flow.
Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase, 2.10
Great Britain have had 6 winners and Ireland 4
Nicky Henderson has trained 3 of the last 6 winners
Willie Mullins has trained 2 of the last 3 winners
Ruby Walsh has ridden 2 of the last 3 winners
Six 7-year-olds, three six-year-olds, and one 8-year-old have been successful
5 out of the last 6 favourites have won (all odds-on)
The last 8 winners had won last time out
SP’s have ranged from 1/4 to 33/1
Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase Summary
A disappointing turnout from a betting point of view, with just five set to go to post, but there are four very high-class runners. Saint Calvados comes here after three wins on soft ground and is the second highest-rated chaser in the field.
However, the last 5-year-old to win was Voy Por Ustedes in 2006 and he and other previous winning 5-year-olds all received weight from their elders, which isn’t the case any more.
Meanwhile, Petit Mouchoir holds both Footpad and Brain Power on hurdle’s form from last year’s Champion Hurdle. However, of that trio, it’s Footpad who has cruised unbeaten through his novice chase career so far. Softer ground should also bring his proven stamina into play, whilst his brilliant jumping should mean he doesn’t get outpaced like he did over hurdles.
Ultima Handicap Chase, 2.50
Great Britain have won the last 10 renewals
David Pipe and Tom Scudamore have teamed up to win 3 of the last 10 renewals
SP’s have ranged from 5/1 to 33/1
4 winners had won last time out
7 of the 10 winners were rated between 142 and 148
Five 8-year-olds, three 7-year-olds, one 9-year-old, and one 10-year-old have won
Ultima handicap Chase Summary
Gold Present is a much-improved horse this season, but soft ground may not be ideal. That also applies to Coo Star Sivola who is up in the weights, up in class and up in trip after an easy win last time. He’s also higher in the weights than when beaten at the last two Cheltenham Festivals over hurdles.
The 8-year-old Singlefarmpayment shouldn’t be far away though as he’s only 3lb higher than when second last year and he tends to go well at Cheltenham. He’s also 10lb better off with Gold Present than when meeting earlier in the season.
Meanwhile, one worth considering at bigger-prices is Ramses De Teille. Novice chasers have a decent record in the race, and this one looks a decent stats-fit on a mark of 145. He’s not raced in this sort of class yet but looks the type of easy-traveller and decent jumper who may appreciate this test. The Pipe stable also target this race.
Champion Hurdle, 3.30
Great Britain and Ireland have each won 5 renewals
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have teamed up to win 4 of the last 7 renewals
Nicky Henderson has trained 3 of the last 9 winners
SP’s have ranged from 13/8 to 22/1
7 of the 10 winners won last time out
Champion Hurdle Summary
The form of last year’s Champion Hurdle looks good on paper as every horse that finished behind Buveur D’air has come out and won since. A list that includes My Tent Or Yours, Petit Mouchoir, Footpad, The New One, Sceau Royal, Yanworth, Wicklow Brave, Brain Power, and Cyrus Darius. Therefore, a second win for Buveur D’Air will come as no surprise though.
However, Willie Mullins knows what it takes to prepare a Champion Hurdler and he has three interesting runners in Faugheen, Yorkhill and Wicklow Brave. The first two are both dual-winners at the Festival whilst Wickow Brave ran a decent race in last year’s renewal, considering he missed the break, and he should appreciate soft ground.
However, knowing which one of the three will perform anywhere near their best is guesswork, though Ruby Walsh has picked Faugheen. Even if back to their best, they may still not be good enough to beat Buveur D’Air.
OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, 4.10
Ireland won 9 renewals and Great Britain 1
Willie Mullins has trained 8 of the last 9 winners
Ruby Walsh has ridden 7 of the last 9 winners
8 winners won last time out
SP’s have ranged from 4/7 to 20/1
Three 5-year-olds, three 7-year-olds, and one horse each aged 6, 8, 9 and 10 have won
OLBG Mare’s Hurdle Summary
8 of the last 9 renewals of this race have gone to the best mare in the field, and it would have been nine out of nine if Annie Power hadn’t have fallen in 2015. Therefore, it’s hard to look beyond the favourite Apple’s Jade who is unbeaten over this sort of trip and has already proved she handles the hurly and burly of the festival. If you want to take her on, Benie Des Dieux is unbeaten for 8-time winning trainer Willie Mullins and could find further improvement.
National Hunt Challenge Cup, 4.50
Great Britain have won 6 and Ireland 4
Gordon Elliott has trained 3 of the last 7 winners
Mr D O’Connor has ridden 2 of the last 7 winners
4 winners had won last time out
SP’s have ranged from 9/4 to 16/1
Two 6-year-olds, four 7-year-old, three 8-year-olds, and one 9-year-old have won
National Hunt Challenge Cup Summary
Rathvinden and Mossback top the ratings. The former has been placed at the festival before when third behind Faugheen over hurdles however horses who failed to complete on their previous start have a poor record in this race.
Meanwhile, Mossback’s form looks patchy, and this will be his first visit to England, however Gordon Elliott and Lisa O’Neill teamed-up to win last year’s renewal. Gordon Elliott also saddles Jury Duty with Jamie Codd on board, and Codd rode Elliott’s Cause Of Causes to success in 2015. No Comment, Sizing Tennessee, Miss Parfois, and Due At Dawn also all have potential upped in trip.
Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, 5.30
Great Britain have won 6 and Ireland 1
3 of the 7 winners had won last time out
Three 6-year-olds, three 7-year-olds, and one 9-year-old have won
SP’s have ranged from 13/2 to 16/1
Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
A win for Jury Duty in the preceding race could prove a significant pointer to the chances of Barney Dwan in this, as Barney Dawn finished second between Presenting Percy and Jury Duty in last year’s Pertemps, and he runs off the same mark over fences here.
Meanwhile, De Plotting Shed is 7lb lower over fences than when last see over fences but was beaten off a much-lower mark in his only previous try in a handicap. Demi Sang also looks a danger for Willie Mullins as he was being talked of as an Arkle horse but takes in this handicap on just his third start for the Irish Champion Trainer.
Testify is another novice who looks unexposed despite top-weight, whilst Any Second Now is having his first run in a handicap for the shrewd Ted Walsh. A graded winner over hurdles, he has been running behind the likes of Footpad in the top Irish Novice Chases so far this season.