Cheltenham Day 1 has finally arrived and horse racing has never needed it more.
After equine flu and then the debacle at Sandown Park on Saturday we can only hope that Cheltenham shows us how glorious the”Sport of Kings” can be.
Cheltenham Day 1 kicks off at 1.30 with the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
17 runners go to post for this Grade 1.
I particularly like the look of Angels Breath. Whilst this horse has less experience than many of his rivals, what he has done on the racecourse has been very impressive.
I believe that the Cheltenham racecourse will suit him as will the likely breakneck speed that the race will be ran at.
Obviously there are Irish challengers to overcome. The most likely threat looks to come from Willie Mullins. He has two great options with Ruby Walsh riding Klassical Dream and Paul Townsend with Aramon.
The next race on Cheltenham Day 1 takes place at 2.10 and is the Arkle. 12 runners currently vie for the next Grade 1 to take place.
This looks wide open. There are a multitude of front runners so there is a possibility they may cut each other’s throat.
If they do then I think that Hardline will be primed to take advantage. He loves to run off the pace and Davy Russell is a master of judging the pace of a race and astute at tactics.
Cheltenham Day 1 sees its first Grade 3 race at 2.50.
Mister Whitaker comes back to Cheltenham having won the Close Brothers Handicap last year. However he has yet to prove he can handle 3m.
Last years winner Coo Star Sivola runs again and looks primed for this race.
Incredibly there is also a Cheltenham Gold Cup runner up in this race in the shape of Minella Rocco. If he were to run anywhere near his form form 2017 he would run away with this race. However he missed the Cheltenham Festival in 2018 due to soft ground so question marks must be raised against him.
Cheltenham Day 1 Race of the Day - Champion Hurdle
The Blue Riband race on Cheltenham Day 1 is the Champion Hurdle.
Buveur D’Air is looking to emulate 5 other horses who have won this race 3 times. Those horses were Hattons Grace (1949/50/51), Sir Ken (1952/53/54), Persian War (1968/69/70), See You Then (1985/86/87) and Istabraq (1998/99/2000).
He has only been beaten twice on a racecourse and one of those defeats was at Cheltenham in 2016 to Altior in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. However his other defeat came recently at Kempton Park over the Christmas period by stablemate Verdana Blue.
Interestingly Nico De Boinville has elected to ride Brain Power instead of sticking with Verdana Blue. For me this is a big clue that tells us that Verdana Blue cannot beat Buveur D’Air again.
Clearly according to the markets the 2 main rivals come from across the Irish Sea. Interestingly both are mares and could have ran elsewhere at Cheltenham. It is credit to the owners and trainers of these mares that we have such an exciting race to look forward to.
Gordon Elliot is pitting Apple’s Jade whilst Willie Mullins sends Laurina.
Apple’s Jade has ran in the last 3 Festivals with varying degrees of success. Runner-up in the 2016 Triumph Hurdle, she then has come 1st and 3rd in the last 2 running shoes of the Mares Hurdle.
In her defence she was found to be in season after her run last year. She appears to be able to run over any distance and has won Grade 1 races varying from 2m 4f to 3m. She also has won on various going and has won 10 Grade 1 races in total.
Laurina comes into the race with 6 wins from 6 races.
However this is a big step up in class. She has won a Grade 1 race but that was a Mares’ only event at Fairyhouse last season.
She did win a Grade 2 Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham last season.
Only 4 Mares have ever won the Champion Hurdle and the 2 above are aiming to join an elite club.
That club consists of African Sister (1939), Dawn Run (1984), Flakey Dove (1994) and Annie Power (2016).
Cheltenham Day 1 Tip of the Day
MY TIP FOR CHELTENHAM DAY 1 IS FOR BUVEUR D’AIR TO MAKE HISTORY AND COMPLETE A HAT-TRICK OF CHAMPION HURDLE VICTORIES.
CURRENTLY AVAILABLE AT 11/4 WITH MOST BOOKMAKERS.