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2014 Cheltenham Festival tips - Your top tips for day one of the Cheltenham Festival!

Brian Healy in Tips 20 Dec 2018

It's day one of the Cheltenham Festival, and the most important four days in the racing calendar of National Hunt racing enthusiasts everywhere; the war between punters and bookmakers begins here!

The tension at 1.30pm on Tuesday afternoon will be palpable as racing fans across the country anticipate tapes-up on the first race of the day, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle which heralds the start of four cracking days of top-class racing action.

With 27 races across the four days, Brian Healy looks at day one as he tries to find a winner or two to help pay for the week's expenses at the Festival.

13:30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+, Class 1, 2m 110y, 18 runners)

A cracking opening contest in which Irish trainer Willie Mullins holds a strong hand with Vautour (7/2, Ladbrokes), Wicklow Brave (8/1, Stan James) and Valseur Lido (18/1, BetVictor), and a case can be made for all.

Vautour is unbeaten since joining the Mullins team from France, and perhaps boasts the strongest claim in the race amongst the Mullins runners, possessing a potent mix of speed and stamina, and his assured hurdling will stand him in good stead while Wicklow Brave continues to progress hand over fist and can improve further.


Vautour will be a popular selection for punters looking to get off to a winning start. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Irving (7/2, Boylesports) heads up the home challenge and Paul Nicholls' charge is unbeaten over hurdles, and most recently landed an impressive win at Kempton. He is sure to have his supporters, and boasts a strong chance on form but he'll need to hurdle with more fluency in this contest.

The race however can go the way of the Irish, who have largely made this race their own, with the vote going the way of Enda Bolger's GILGAMBOA (11/1, William Hill) who has created a huge impression with recent wins at Punchestown and Leopardstown in Irish handicaps, and he looks to have plenty of improvement to come; although he's won over further when winning at Punchestown two starts ago, he is equally effective at this shorter trip, and should handle the quicker ground.

Selection: GILGAMBOA (11/1, William Hill)


14:05 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m, 9 runners)

This race has been claimed by plenty of top class chasers in the past, many of whom have gone on to run well in the Champion Chase in later years; the likes of Sizing Europe, Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre have all taken this race en-route to Champion Chase glory.

Champagne Fever (3/1, William Hill) will be a popular selection as he goes in search of a Cheltenham Festival hat-trick, having landed the 2012 Champion Bumper and the 2013 Supreme Novices' Chase, but he blotted his copybook on his most recent start over fences when clouting two out in the race won by Defy Logic at Leopardstown over the festive period, finishing third.

With the ground drying out, Willie Mullins' charge looks every inch a stayer and may find things happening too quickly for him over this trip on the faster ground, but is a serious challenger if coping with the conditions.


Trifolium can land the Arkle for Bryan Cooper and Charles Byrnes. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

However, TRIFOLIUM (9/2, Ladbrokes) took full advantage of Champagne Fever's blunder when second at Leopardstown, and later recorded a good win in the Irish Arkle when beating Felix Yonger over the same venue, ridden more aggressively and he jumped and travelled well.

Charles Byrnes' runner stays further than this trip, and although the ground may be a shade lively for him, he can go well and should make his presence felt.

Paul Nicholls' Dodging Bullets (6/1, Paddy Power) was narrowly denied by Champion Chase hopeful Module last time out, and had previously handed an easy beating to the reopposing Grandouet (10/1, William Hill) at Kempton; he'll love the quicker ground, but there's a worry that his form has tailed off in the past around this time of year.

Meanwhile, 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby (5/1, Coral) can't be overlooked despite only facing five rivals in two chase starts to date.

Selection: TRIFOLIUM (9/2, Ladbrokes)


14:40 Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (5yo+, Class 1, 3m 110y, 24 runners)

A wide-open handicap chase fills the third spot on the card, and represents a real chance for punters to find a big-priced winner.

The battle-hardened Cheltenham Festival veteran Alfie Sherrin (8/1, Ladbrokes) will be popular given he won the race two years ago, and put in a good showing in last year's Kim Muir but he's in the twilight of his career now, and he may find the younger legs of some of these rivals too much.

It could transpire then that his stablemate HOLYWELL (10/1, Stan James) could be the one to follow and the 2013 Pertemps Final winner has taken time to find his feet over fences, but has won his last two races over the larger obstacles, most recently beating next-time winner Victor Hewgo at Doncaster.


2013 Pertemps Final winner Holywell can land another Cheltenham Festival success, this time over fences. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Although not the most fluent of jumpers, he's 12lbs lower than his hurdles mark which leaves plenty of room for manouvre in this sphere and he shouldn't be far away with a clear round.

Time For Rupert (14/1, Ladbrokes) has shown he retains plenty of the ability that saw him rated 161 in his prime, and he's slipped markedly down the weights. 

Last seen when second to Tranquil Sea at Doncaster, he'll find conditions right up his alley and Paul Webber's charge can run well at a price.

Selection: HOLYWELL (10/1, Stan James)


15:20 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) (4yo+, Class 1, 2m 110y, 9 runners)

This year's Champion Hurdle could quite potentially turn out to be the race of the Festival, with dual champion Hurricane Fly looking to see off some stellar younger competition.

There are plenty in with a chance in this race, but there are concerns about The New One (3/1, Coral) being out-sped at this trip having won the Neptune over further, and he failed to run the sting out of My Tent Or Yours (7/2, BetFred) at Kempton. Its debatable whether he would have won there despite making a mistake at the last.

Nicky Henderson's horse possesses plenty of speed and travels well, and showed plenty of battling qualities to get upsides and past The New One at Kempton, and although outstayed into second in last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the better ground will help as will the presence of Captain Cee Bee (250/1, Stan James) who should ensure a decent gallop. 


Hurricane Fly can defy his years by landing a third Champion Hurdle. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

There are doubts too over Our Conor (5/1, Paddy Power), who perhaps isn't the heartiest of battlers when he allowed Hurricane Fly to get back at him on the run-in during the Irish Champion Hurdle, and he may struggle to come up the hill in a truly-run race.

Jezki (10/1, Bet365) should fare better on the quicker ground and with a stronger pace to chase, and with Barry Geraghty 4-4 on him, he's no forlorn hope but they all need to get past HURRICANE FLY (10/3, 888Sport) who is bidding for a third Champion Hurdle, and a 20th Grade One success over timber.

He's looked as good as ever this season, beating Jezki, Our Conor and Captain Cee Bee twice already, and with Willie Mullins bullish about his chances, he is the one to beat and he should pay another visit to the winners' enclosure at Cheltenham.

Selection: Hurricane Fly (10/3, 888Sport)


16:00 OLBG Mares' Hurdle (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle) (Grade 2) (4yo+, Class 1, 2m 4f, 16 runners)

The Mares' Hurdle is all about QUEVEGA (10/11, William Hill) who beats a familiar path, arriving at Prestbury Park without a prep-run. It is a tactic that has worked well in the past for Willie Mullins' charge, and she's won this race five times in the past in total; three of those wins have come on her seasonal debut and she is unbeaten over hurdles since winning this race back in 2010.

Quevega was made to work hard for her last win in this race, with Ruby Walsh having to put her under a drive, but she was still good enough to land the spoils by just over a length from Sirene D'Ainay (10/1, Bet365).

However, she posted perhaps her best run to date when hosing home at Punchestown on her last start, which is familiar territory for Quevega; she has backed up Cheltenham success with success at the Dublin venue and has been absent between those runs between the years.

The absence is of little consequence and Quevega has shrugged off the lengthy layoff for the past four years; it's fairly simple for punters, and Quevega can't be opposed.

If there is to be a shock, it is likely to come in the shape of Cockney Sparrow (10/1, Paddy Power) who was held when falling behind wonder-mare Annie Power last time at Doncaster, but had previously ran well in defeat behind My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and is expected to be suited by the step up in trip.

Selection: QUEVEGA (10/11, William Hill)

16:40 Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase (Listed Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase) (5yo+, Class 1, 4m, 15 runners)

Moved to the first day of the Festival, this race for amateur pilots looks to be a wide-open affair and is often run at a blood-and-thunder pace throughout.

Foxrock (4/1, Bet365) has shaped like a dour stayer in recent starts, and most recently posted a game effort when rallying strongly to get back up to land the Grade Two Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan last time.

That was on heavy ground though, as all bar one of his previous wins to date have been, although he did win a Fairyhouse chase on quicker ground at a lesser level.

The trip will be a big leveller though, and he looks the ideal type for a race of this nature.


This race looks an ideal contest for Ted Walsh's Foxrock. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

However, SHOTGUN PADDY (5/1, BetFred) has also looked as if he would relish staying trips and Emma Lavelle's charge ploughed through the mud to land the Classic Chase at Warwick on his most recent start.

He has to prove that he can handle this much quicker going though, having done most of his running in the mud, but similar comments can apply to many of his market rivals; he looks to have bags of stamina and a test of this nature should be right up his street.

The assistance of top amateur Derek O'Connor can prove invaluable in this contest, and he shouldn't be far away if proving as effective on the forecast quicker ground.

Selection: SHOTGUN PADDY (5/1, BetFred)

17:15 Rewards4Racing Novices' Handicap Chase (Listed) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m 4f 110y, 20 runners)

The final race of the day is another competitive handicap chase, where Present View (9/1, Paddy Power) will be a popular selection given the way he dotted up at Kempton last time.

However, the handicapper has taken note of that success and raised Jamie Snowden's runner 11lbs, which could prove to be a proper burden and he is taken on in this contest by ART OF LOGISTICS (8/1, BetFred) who won a maiden contest at Gowran Park before following up in a Grade Three at Punchestown in October; he wasn't disgraced in a pair of Grade One contests subsequently behind Don Cossack and Defy Logic, although was punching well above his weight on both occasions.


Bryan Cooper can sign off on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival with a winner aboard Art Of Logistics. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

This is perhaps an easier assignment and Dessie Hughes' charge sports a first-time visor now for this contest. 

He could well be capable of better now fitted with headgear, although he does need to find more on the balance of his form in order to be competitive, but he did swerve an Arkle entry to take in this race, which could prove significant.

Selection: ART OF LOGISTICS (8/1, BetFred)

Brian Healy's Cheltenham Festival Selections - Day One

1.30 - GILGAMBOA (11/1, William Hill)
2.05 - TRIFOLIUM (9/2, Ladbrokes)
2.40 - HOLYWELL (10/1, Stan James)
3.20 - HURRICANE FLY (NAP) (10/3, 888Sport)
4.00 - QUEVEGA (10/11, William Hill)
4.40 - SHOTGUN PADDY (5/1, BetFred)
5.15 - ART OF LOGISTICS (NB) (8/1, BetFred)

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2014 Cheltenham Festival tips - Your top tips for day one of the Cheltenham Festival!

It's day one of the Cheltenham Festival, and the most important four days in the racing calendar of National Hunt racing enthusiasts everywhere; the war between punters and bookmakers begins here!

Read more »

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