Well, day one of the Cheltenham Festival had a bit of everything…
It started with two well-backed Willie Mullins-trained winners in the first two races after which the Irish, as is often the case, let England get one back in the board in the Ultima Handicap Chase.
Then came the carnage, as the predicted Champion Hurdle showdown between Buveur D’Air, Apple’s Jade, and Laurina turned into a placepot buster as Espoir D’allen led home Melon and Silver Streak.
If that didn’t put enough money in the bookies’ satchels, the last-hurdle fall of Bennis Des Deaux in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle certainly did.
A first Cheltenham Festival win for Rachael Blackmore aboard A Plus Tard in the Close Brother Handicap Chase provided another winning favourite for punters before another shock as the previously soft-looking Le Breuil gritted it out to win the four-mile National Hunt Chase.
Hey, but that was only day one. It’s now time to preview day two of the Cheltenham Festival and we’ve analysis and free tips for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase, the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, and the Weatherby’s Champion Bumper.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (1.30)
Gordon Elliott has described Battleoverdoyen as a potential future Cheltenham Gold Cup horse and he could easily take this before going chasing next year. Champ, who is named after the now retired twenty-time champion jockey AP McCoy, is also respected.
However, I think the form of City Island is just as good as the market leaders, and he’d be much shorter in the market if he was trained by either of their trainers Gordon Elliott or Nicky Henderson. Instead, he’s trained by Martin Brassill. The Irish trainer isn’t one to over-face his horses, so he must think he’s got at least an each-way chance to run him here
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (2.10)
Delta Work, Topofthegame, and Santini are all described as potential top-class chasers by their trainers, and it will be disappointing if one of them doesn’t come out on top here. It’s hard to split them though as all three ran excellent races at last year’s Cheltenham Festival over hurdles.
Santini ran third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. However, Topofthegame probably ran even better when second in the Coral Cup Handicap off a mark of 150. Meanwhile, Delta Work proved three-miles at Cheltenham holds no fears by winning the Pertemps Final off a mark of 137.
Delta work is only six, which has been an age that only Florida Pearl and Don Poli have managed to win this race at in recent years. However, Gordon Elliott’s improving youngster is a two-time grade one winner and already looks tailor-made for this challenge and is expected to take this on his way to better things.
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30)
Altior remains unbeaten over hurdles and fences and it’s hard to see him not continuing his run as he faces a bunch of horses he’s beaten before or is miles clear of on ratings. He also comes into this race in much better form than last year having cruised to victory in the Tingle Creek Chase, Desert Orchid Chase, and the Clarence House Chase.
Last year he won by seven-lengths after an interrupted preparation, so it will be the biggest shock of the week if he gets beat here.
Min has been unlucky to bump into him at two festivals, but still looks the only possible danger, and it looks worth combining them in a forecast.
Glenfarclas Chase (4.10)
Tiger Roll looks an obvious winner of the cross-country chase and it will be another major surprise if last year’s Grand National winner can’t win it for a second successive year.
He is officially only rated 1lb higher than the re-opposing Auvergnat but that one needs to improve after only finishing fourth in the last two renewals.
Tiger Roll also comes into the race having, surprisingly, won his warm-up race over hurdles at 25/1 and he could easily be even better last year. He was once thought to need good ground but, having proven he handles a soft surface in this race last year and when winning the Grand National, there’s no reason to oppose him.
Weatherby’s Champion Bumper (5.30)
Trainer Willie Mullins usually attacks this race mob-handed but has just Blue Sari in the race this year, which must be a massive tip in itself.
Mullins reported that the unusually long spell of good ground has stopped him from running many of his nice young bumper horses, which is the reason that he’ll only have one runner, but Blue Sari won his only race so far on soft ground and it’s interesting that the last four-year-old to win this race Cue Card also came here after just one run.
Sadly, we won’t get anything like the 40/1 that Cue Card was that day, but I still think Blue Sari will be another winner for Willie Mullins, who has won three of the last seven renewals.