Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for Our Merlin who was too keen in the Imperial Cup. He was never likely to get home after pulling hard on the soft ground but he is better than he showed at Sandown. The Cheltenham Festival starts on Tuesday and the final declarations are in for the opening day. Dave Stevos has studied the card and you can check his Cheltenham Festival Day 1 tips below.…
Cheltenham Day 1 Tips: Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
The rain (and snow) arrived at Cheltenham on Sunday. It looks like there will be soft in the ground description on Tuesday, if the weather forecast is correct. How soft it will be remains to be seen, but it surely won’t be too testing. The Supreme looks wide open this year, with Al Dancer and Angels Breath joint favourites at 5/1. This race has been a graveyard for favourite backers in recent years though. Only two have won in the past dozen renewals, so a shock winner wouldn’t come as a big surprise.
At the prices, the one that looks to represent serious each way value is Aramon. This son of Monsun hung his chance away close to home against Klassical Dream at Leopardstown last time. He travelled like the best horse in the race though, and on another day, he would have beaten that rival. He has won on the flat on soft so once the ground isn’t heavy, he should be fine. Paul Townend keeps the ride and it is amazing that Aramon can be backed at 16/1 while Klassical Dream is closer to 4/1. There was only a head between them last time, so the prices look wrong. At odds of 16/1 Aramon is the each way pick.
CHELTENHAM DAY 1 TIPS: ARAMON E/W @ 16/1 (4 PLACES)
Cheltenham Day 1 Tips: Arkle Chase (Grade 1)
This 2 mile Novices’ Chase has the potential to be an absolute burn up. There is a massive amount of early pace in the race. Articulum, Clondaw Castle, Duc Des Genievres, Glen Forsa, Knocknanuss and Ornua all like to lead, so they could go off very hard from the start. If that is the case you need to be on something that can sit, jump and travel off the pace and pick up the pieces over the last two fences. The horse that fits the bill perfectly is Lalor for Richard Johnson and Kayley Woollacott.
This 7yo sprang a surprise when winning a Grade 1 Hurdle at Aintree last season. However, he proved that was no fluke with a superb victory over this course and distance on his seasonal reappearance. An uncharacteristic slow jump at the third fence put him on the back foot at Sandown last time and he couldn’t recover. He has been freshened up, he will relish the return to this track and at odds of 9/2 he is a confident selection.
CHELTENHAM DAY 1 TIPS: LALOR WIN @ 9/2 NB
Cheltenham Day 1 Tips: Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
The first handicap of the week is the 25f Ultima Handicap Chase and a maximum field of 24 will go to post. Un Temps Pour Tout won this race off top weight and a rating of 155 in 2017. Nick Alexander’s 9yo Lake View Lad races off the same rating, and this improver could run a big race. It was hard not to be impressed by him at Wincanton last time off 147. He scored by 4L from Captain Chaos, jumping like a stag and staying on strongly.
Lake View Lad is not a front runner, but he likes to be close to the pace. That should help keep him out of trouble as hold up horses are hostages to fortune in races like this. He is 3 from 3 over 3 miles on soft ground, and his Grand National entry suggests that an extra furlong won’t bother him. Hopefully he can follow in the hoofsteps of his ill fated half brother Neon Wolf and win a race at the festival. At odds of 20/1 he is the each way selection in a wide open race.
CHELTENHAM DAY 1 TIPS: LAKE VIEW LAD E/W @ 20/1
Cheltenham Day 1 Tips: Champion Hurdle (Day 1)
The Champion Hurdle is the blue riband race on Day 1 at Cheltenham and what a race it is shaping up to be. The brilliant Apple’s Jade has been rerouted from the mares’ race for a shot at Buveur D’Air’s title. She has been sensational this season, but she is unlikely to get an uncontested lead here. Laurina likes to get on with it too, though she has a lot to prove stepping up to this level.
It will be a fast and furious affair and it should set up perfectly for the reigning champ, Buveur D’Air. This horse is much maligned in some quarters, but I think he is a superstar. Melon ran him close last year, but the ground was bottomless. I think good to soft or soft ground suits him much better, and he should get those conditions on Tuesday. He may have lost to Verdana Blue two runs back but that was Kempton and this track suits him much better. At odds of 5/2 he is the NAP of the day.
The one that looks overpriced for each way players is Sharjah. He too will be suited by a strong early pace and he could be one of the last ones to come off the bridle. Whether he will find enough up the hill to beat Buveur D’Air is debatable, but he looks well overpriced at 14/1. Silver Streak is another that could outrun his odds of 50/1 for Evan Williams and Adam Wedge. Buveur D’Air is the one to beat though and hopefully he completes the hat trick and finally gets the recognition he deserves.
CHELTENHAM DAY 1 TIPS: BUVEUR D’AIR WIN @ 5/2 NAP
Cheltenham Day 1 Tips: Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
The fifth race on Day 1 at Cheltenham is the 20f Mares’ Hurdle. 15 will line up at the start and unsurprisingly, Willie Mullins looks to hold most of the aces. He has won this race nine of the last ten years and last year’s heroine Benie Des Deux is back to defend her crown. She only prevailed narrowly last season though, and that form is nothing to write home about. At odds on she could be a vulnerable favourite.
At the prices, Limini looks to represent a bit of value against the jolly. She has a win and a place from two festival runs and she ran a cracker last time at Gowran. She was only a couple of lengths behind Presenting Percy (24f sft) and dropping back to 20f will suit. Overall, her form this season hasn’t been good enough. However, she has improved steadily on each of her last three runs. If she turns up in peak condition she should be bang there at the business end. She has strong festival form in the book and at odds of 9/1 she is the each way selection.
CHELTENHAM DAY 1 TIPS: LIMINI E/W @ 9/1
Cheltenham Day 1 Tips: Novice Handicap (Listed)
The Close Brothers Handicap Chase for novices is one of the weaker races of the week. However, it will still be a keenly contested affair and it looks wide open. Irish raider Riders Onthe Storm is the market leader at around 7/1 for Tom Taaffe. However, at double those odds, Cubomania looks a real contender for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell. He looks dangerously well handicapped off a mark of 145 and he has likely been laid out for this contest for some time.
His sole run at Cheltenham came in a novice chase back in October and he won easily (20f gd/sft). He found Graded company too hot the next twice, but he was still in touch when falling in the Grade 1 won by Delta Work at Fairyhouse. He has won on heavy ground so rain is no worry, and he shaped well enough in his prep run at Leopardstown. 14/1 looks massive and at those odds Cubomania has to be worth an each way interest.
CHELTENHAM DAY 1 TIPS: CUBOMANIA E/W @ 14/1
Cheltenham Day 1 Tips: National Hunt Novices’ Chase (Grade 2)
The closing race on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival is the 4 mile Grade 2 Novices’ Chase for amateur jockeys. Ok Corral is one of the joint market leaders with Ballyward. His connections have secured the services of top pilot Derek O’Connor. However, whether he will get this trip is debateable and at odds of just 3/1 better value can be found elsewhere. The same sentiment applies to Ballyward, and with 4 places available with some firms for each way bets, Skipthecuddles could be worth chancing at silly odds.
This talented but quirky son of Westerner is rated 140, so he has a fair chunk to find on the figures. He has had just three starts over fences and he wasn’t disgraced behind Santini in a Grade 2 on his chasing debut (24 sft). He was well beaten next time at Chepstow (24f sft), getting badly outpaced.
However, he won impressively in a two runner race at Market Rasen last time, beating 142 rated Chosen Path by 6L. His pedigree is all about stamina, so he should stay the trip. He is a tricky ride, but Lilly Pinchin is a decent pilot and she has won at this track before. At odds of 33/1 with 4 places available, a small each way interest on Graeme McPherson’s charge is advised.
CHELTENHAM DAY 1 TIPS: SKIPTHECUDDLES E/W @ 33/1