We’re one day away from the Cheltenham roar. Willie Mullins says his team isn’t as strong as in years gone by. However, he looks to have a strong hand on the opening day. Let’s look at some of them.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Mullins was aiming Klassical Dream at the Ballymore on Wednesday. But plans have changed with the rain turning the ground soft. At around 6-1 it’s worth taking the hint.
Arkle Novices’ Chase. Mullins runs Duc Des Genievres here. He produced a dominant performance to win by 15 lengths over two and a half miles at Gowran Park last time out. The horses behind him that day weren’t mugs. Tower Bridge finished second and he’s a leading fancy for the Close Brothers Chase later on the first day card. A strong pace should suit Duc Des Genievres. He’ll be staying on past tired horses.
Champion Hurdle. All we know about Laurina is that she’s got a leg in each corner. She’s a 7-2 shot but could be anything. However, Mullins also has Sharjah in the field. He’s a 12-1 shot and has the form in the book. He had last year’s Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon back in fourth when winning the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle last time out.
Benie Des Dieux looks the Mullins ‘banker’ in the Mares’ Hurdle. She won this race last year and Ruby Walsh says she’s his best ride of the week. She’ll be short odds to win it again so it’s worth looking for each-ways. Cap Soleil finished second to Laurina in last year’s Dawn Run Mares Novices’ Hurdle. She’s a 25-1 shot but has not run since then. Roksana bids to give Dan Skelton his first grade 1 success and may go close.
Can Mullins win the National Hunt Chase too?
He runs Ballyward in this one. He won a three-mile Grade 3 chase at Naas on yielding to soft ground last time. He’ll be a short price, around 3-1. The best riders tend to have the best mounts in this amateurs’ four-mile race. They don’t come much better than Jamie Codd, who rides Le Breuil, an 11-1 chance, for Ben Pauling. However, he’s stepping up markedly in trip. One who looks sure to stay the four miles is Sam Waley-Cohen’s mount Impulsive Star. He won the 3m 5f Classic Chase at Warwick so there are no trip concerns with this one.
Yet another Irish winner for day one?
Ireland could have a great first day. Besides the Mullins team, Gordon Elliott comes mob-handed. He runs Cubomania in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase. Davy Russell rides this one. At around 12-1, he’s a value bet in an open-looking race.