Cheltenham Festival Day 1 Tips – Including Best Bets on Supreme, Champion Hurdle, Arkle And Mares Hurdle
2021 Cheltenham Festival Day 1 Tips
The final declarations are in and Daniel Overall has given us the best tips for every race on day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival. On a day with plenty of hot favourites, let’s check out just how many of the good things he fancies to find their way into the winner’s emclosure.
Appreciate It (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1,30pm, Tuesday)
An eight-runner Supreme is not the block uster event we all hoped for as a festival opener, but at least we shouldn’t get a false start!
Appreciate It has been the pundit’s punching bag in the build-up, with seemingly everyone looking to take him on but this is one favourite I am not going to oppose.
Second in last year’s Champion Bumper, he’s three from three over hurdles this season recording two Grade 1 wins in the process. His win over the Christmas period was stunning as many had seen him as more of a stayer, yet he demonstrated an emphatic turn of foot to rout his rivals; the reopposing Irascible finished second that day, nine lengths adrift of the ready winner.
His victory at the Dublin Racing Festival wasn’t as impressive, but he still beat a good field and did so very professionally. Ballyadam and Blue Lord finished second and third respectively; the former should improve for the better ground but his jumping will need to improve if he is to threaten the favourite. However, I still rate him as the most likely to finish behind Appreciate It.
While the selection would not want rattling fast ground, good to soft should be fine and some seem to forget that his most impressive bumper performance last term came on yielding ground; he is not a flashy two-miler but he doesn’t lack pace.
For Pleasure will make sure there is plenty of pace on here and I expect Paul Townend to be prominent throughout before taking over as they turn for home.
Shiskin (Arkle Chase, 1.55 Tuesday)
It Is unfortunate that we won’t get to see the anticipated clash of Shishkin vs Energumene, although I’m sure many a punter who is holding an ante-post slip on Nicky Henderson’s star novice chaser is a tad relieved that his task has been made considerably easier.
Everything went wrong for him in last year’s Supreme yet he still managed to win and while he has not beat superstars over fences thus far, he has brushed aside some decent rivals while recording fast times in the process.
Allmankind is a worthy foe and he can give a bold show from the front, while the absence of Energumene means he should get an easier time of things out in front. With that in mind, I think he will finish in the frame.
A special mention for Numitor; a beautiful grey who is over 18 hands, I have a lot of time for this horse but he is obviously out of his depth here. Still, I believe there is more to come from him and he’s worth sticking in your tracker for when he returns to calmer waters.
Aye Right (Ultima Chase, 2.30 Tuesday)
It could be worth using some Cheltenham Free Bets on this admirable performer, Aye Right looks tailor made for this race and that’s why I put up him a while ago. A sound jumper, he races prominently which is crucial in this race, he ran admirably well in the Ladbrokes Trophy (a race which has provided four of the past six winners of this race) behind Cloth Cap, who is now 26lbs higher and the favourite for the Grand National.
Second in the Sky Bet Chase when next seen, there are reasons to mark-up that run. Firstly, he had to run in AW bumper just 10 days prior as the ground in Scotland was frozen; not an ideal prep. The ground was heavy while Harriet Graham said before the race that she wished the race was on better ground and over slightly further, which is what he’ll get here. He hit the front a long way out that day, the jockey dropped his whip and he was still only headed close to home by the dour stayer, Takingrisks.
It is possible to win off marks this high, as Beware the Bear and Un Temps Pour Tout have shown, while the booking of Richard Johnson is superb as the duo look made for each other. It’s worth remembering that this horse was thought worthy of lining up in last year’s RSA despite only having completed one race over fences, and that came in a two-runner affair. He ran very well that despite three horrendous jumping mistakes but he’s improved markedly in that department and while he is at the top end of his range in terms of handicapping, he looks sure to run a bold race in what is a sub-par renewal.
Honeysuckle (Champion Hurdle, 3.05 Tuesday)
A mouthwatering prospect, this is a race will divide punters.
Goshen could still be anything but he has serious blow-out potential; at the prices, I’m happy to leave him alone, especially as he has to concede 7lb to two top-class mares. Epatante is respected and there is no one better at readying a horse for a Champion Hurdle than Nicky Henderson but she faces better rivals this year and while Aidan Coleman is a fine jockey, Barry Geraghty is a difficult man to replace.
Honeysuckle routed a decent field in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time out, three on whom reoppose. That race couldn’t have worked out any better for her, as Rachael Blackmore took up the running from Petit Mouchoir after four from home on route to a comfortable ten-length success. While the race was run to suit, it only panned out that way because she showed enough natural pace to take advantage of the situation, while her jumping was notably slicker than it had been. That performance was indicative of a mare that was still improving; a scary thought considering she already had a perfect record over hurdles.
The ground won’t be rattling quick on the opening day, with good to soft being as quick as she’d want it. All in all, she is a worthy favourite.
Concertista (Mares Hurdle, 3.40 Tuesday)
While I fully respect Roksana, I think she’s more effective at three miles these days and perhaps a sharp 2m4f around Cheltenham won’t see her to best effect; her best chance of a Grade 1 victory this term may come at Aintree.
Last season’s Coral Cup 1-2, Dame De Compagnie and Black Tears are entitled to plenty of respect; they have gone down very different paths this term but they are both very useful, but Concertista comfortably beat the latter earlier this season and would look to have the beating of the former on that evidence.
Second on her hurdles debut in the 2019 Mares’ Novice Hurdle, she went one better in that race next term in one of the most impressive performances of the week, while her two starts this season indicate that she may still be improving. Willie Mullins has won fourteen of the eighteen runnings of the mares-only races at the festival, while Concertista has a great chance of enhancing that impressive record.
Riviere D’etel (Boodles Juvenile Hurdle, 4,15 Tuesday)
Another of my early selections, she has a nice profile for this race. Fillies have won four of the last fourteen renewals while she has shown plenty of ability thus far. The front pair pulled 20 lengths clear when she was second on her sole start in France before bolting up on her debut in Ireland. Favourite to beat subsequent and one-time Supreme contender, Thedevilscoachman, his only defeat came to Appreciate It and Rivere ran well to finish third against her elders. It’s worth noting that 2018 Fred Winter winner Veneer of Charm ran in the same two races Riviere has contested this term, so this has been a path to success in the past, while I would say confidently that Riviere is a significantly better filly.
She ticks a lot of boxes but there are concerns; she can be keen and she has inclined to jump right-handed, but if you watch her last run back her jumping does straighten up especially when under pressure while a big field may help her to settle.
Houx Gris would be another I’m keen on. Paul Nicholls knows how to win this race and the vibes in the build up have been bullish. He ran well for a long way behind Adagio and Nassalam on his British debut before tiring late on, while a mark of 128 could prove to be very lenient as he travelled like a very good horse last time out.
Galvin (National Hunt Chase, 4.50 Tuesday)
If there’s one thing you need for a race of this nature, it’s experience; the past eleven winners of this race had an average of seven prior starts over fences, which is very high for a novice. We often find that the market leader of this race lacks it, but that is not the case this year.
Second in last year’s Novices’ Handicap Chase behind the Ryanair contender, Imperial Aura, he went on to win a series of small field events in the early part of this season before comfortably winning a novice chase at Cheltenham; his eight start over fences. After that, he was put away for the winter with this race in mind. While he had the pace to compete over intermediate trips, connections have always seen him as an out an out stayer, while his dam won the Durham National over 3m4f which augers well for his chances of staying.
Rated 152, it’s worth noting that only twelve horses in the past ten years have lined up here with a rating in excess of 150, resulting in four wins and two seconds. Next Destination is rated 153 but he’s only had two starts over fences, both of which came in small fields.
To my mind, Galvin ticks every box when looking for the winner of this race and while he is a short price, he should go well here.