2020 Cheltenham Festival day one tips – Tips for every race

A wonderful view of the stands as runners perform in front of a packed crowd

A wonderful view of the stands as runners perform in front of a packed crowd

Jon Vine takes a look at all seven races on Champion Hurdle day and provides readers with his 2020 Cheltenham Festival day one tips on Tuesday 13th March.

It’s finally here. The 2020 Cheltenham Festival gets underway this Tuesday and attendees on day one can look forward to a fantastic day of racing!

I’ve taken a look at every race on Champion Hurdle Tuesday and provides my Cheltenham Festival tips for every race.

2020 Cheltenham Festival Day One Tips

Supreme Tips

Gordon Elliott dropped an almighty bombshell at a recent preview evening when he said the prospect of heavy ground make it likely Ballymore favourite, Envoi Allen would be switched to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The three-time Grade One winner has since been backed into favouritism and could be very hard to beat. I. however, feel he could be vulnerable over two miles, in with several horses who’ve shown an eye-catching burst of late speed.

Britain looks set to play a strong hand in the 2020 Cheltenham Festival opener, with Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin heading the betting. The market leader has been super impressive on his last two outings, winning a Listed contest at Huntingdon by 11-lengths without coming off the bridle. FIDDLERONTHEROOF is currently 8/1 with Betway and carries Grade One-winning form into the Supreme. Soft ground should suit Colin Tizzards’ charge perfectly. He looks the best each-way Cheltenham Festival tip in this year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle.

Anyone who’s read my ante-post Supreme tips will know I don’t think much of Abadcadabras’ chances. So, Ireland’s hopes seem to lie squarely on the shoulders of ASTERION FORLONGE, and I think Willie Mullins’ grey will be good enough to cope with the pressure.

Following an easy victory in a bumper, Mullins’ charge powered clear of a future winner to secure a taking victory on his novice hurdles debut. Asterion Forlonge then took on Easywork in a Grade One at the Dublin Racing Festival and again displayed an impressive turn-of-foot to seal a nine-and-a-half-length triumph.

The time of that Chanella Pharma was a second quicker than the Spring Juvenile Hurdle run that same day. Triumph Hurdle contender A Wave Of The Sea came from well off the pace to win the juvenile contest, as the pace-setters faltered close to home. Asterion Forlonge helped make the running with Easywork on very tacky ground, but still had more than enough in the tank to pull clear and eventually win going away from a rival rated 146.

I’ve been so impressed with the way Asterion Forlonge’s jumping has improved with each of his starts and he’s shown a smart burst of speed to seal victory on all of his outings this far. It’s clear this dazzling grey is on a steep upward trajectory, and he’ll be the first of my Cheltenham Festival day one tips.

Asterion Forlonge bolts up in the Chanelle Pharma.

Arkle Tips

Brewin’upastorm and Rouge Vif have come in for support over the last week. I, however, haven’t been that impressed with many of the novice chasers in Britain this season, especially over two miles. Irish horses have dominated the Arkle Chase in recent times, claiming a 1-2-3 in this race 12 months ago, and I fancy raiders will come out on top once again amongst the Cheltenham Festival day one tips.

Notebook extended his unbeaten run over fences with a fine victory over Cash Back at the Dublin Racing Festival. Quotes from Henry De Bromhead’s stable tour suggest he’s come out of that tough race well. Yet, I think the favourite has already done his best work this season, and I can’t see Notebook having much progression left in the tank.

The same cannot be said for FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES, who sealed a maiden Grade One victory with a runaway triumph in the Drinmore. Yes, Notebook beat Joseph O’Brien’s colt when giving him weight over Christmas. I think Mark Walsh will be disappointed with how that race panned out though, and Fakir D’Oudairies was still only beaten a couple of lengths, despite two messy jumps down the home straight.

While it seems that five-year-olds have a poor recent record in the Arkle. If you look a little deeper, you’ll see that only a handful of five-year-olds have taken part in the Arkle since horses of that age scored in 2004 and 2006, and most of those have run beyond their starting prices. Soft ground will see Joseph O’Brien throw Fakir D’Oudairies into the Arkle over the Marsh Novices’ Chase, and I’m confident he will provide JP McManus with a rare winner in this Grade One. He’ll be my sole Cheltenham Festival tip in the Arkle.

Ultima Tips

When I initially published my Ultima tips, I highlighted KILDISART sitting on a price of 25/1. I’m glad I grabbed that price at the time, as Ben Pauling’s charge has plummeted down to 10/1 in the betting with Paddy Power following a decent fifth at Kempton. Even at 10/1, Kildisart remains a good each-way Cheltenham Festival tip. However, my first choice for the Ultima since the autumn has been THE CONDITIONAL.

The Conditional jumped beautifully around Cheltenham on just his second start for David Bridgewater, swatting away a future winner in West Approach to claim victory and establish himself as a real Ultima horse. Bridgewater’s recruit then gave me an almighty fright in the Ladbrokes Trophy. The Conditional powered home after the last, and came within a length of catching my winning selection, De Rasher Counter.

Brendan Powell’s mount was then the last to come off the bridle in the Classic Chase at Warwick, but failed to get home over the 29-furlong trip. Dropping back to three-mile-one seems ideal based on that performance, and I think The Conditional is the best-handicapped horse in the race off his current mark of 139. Of all my Cheltenham Festival day one tips in the handicaps, I’m most confident with The Conditional.

Champion Hurdle Tips

I’ll let you know right from the get-go, I won’t be having a big bet in this year’s Champion Hurdle. Even if Honeysuckle does run and Epatante is fully fit – quotes from Nicky Henderson’s stable tour suggest she is – I have no strong opinion about any of the runners in this wide-open renewal.

When I previewed the Champion Hurdle in February, I threw up two outsiders sitting on appealing prices who could go very well. The first of those is SUPASUNDAE, who’s won three Grade Ones over two miles in recent seasons and boasts winning form here at the Festival. Jessica Harrington’s star made a pleasing return to action in the Irish Champion Hurdle and fully deserves a crack at the Champion Hurdle, having finished second and seventh in the last two Stayers’ Hurdles.

The second of my each-way Cheltenham Festival tips will be SILVER STREAK at 25/1 with William Hill, who snuck into the places when the big-guns flopped in the 2019 Champion Hurdle. Evan Williams’ grey followed Epatante home in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, and could have finished closer to the favourite had it not been for a terrible error at the third-last. Silver Streak goes well fresh and handles Cheltenham racecourse well. He looks a solid Cheltenham Festival day one tips and should run well beyond his odds.

Benie Des Dieux Punchestown

Benie Des Dieux is the odds-on favourite to regain her Mares’ Hurdle crown.

Mares’ Hurdle Tips

Henry De Bromhead and his team have really missed a trick not going for the Champion Hurdle with Honeysuckle. Rarely have we seen a more open renewal of day one’s highlight. Soft ground would bring Honeysuckle’s stamina to the fore and she has more than enough to class to beat the likes of Epatante and Pentland Hills.

Honeysuckle may be better suited to two-and-a-half-miles, but she’ll have her work cut out beating BENIE DES DIEUX. Willie Mullins’ mare is a horse of the highest calibre and Honeysuckle’s presence only makes the favourite’s price more appealing.

The only defeat Mullins’ mare has suffered in the colours of Rich Ricci was here last year, where the favourite fell at the last when cruising to victory. Benie Des Dieux bounced back with a win at Punchestown and a surprise triumph in the French Stayers’ Hurdle. Following a nonchalant return victory in the Galmoy Hurdle, there were clamours for Benie to take on Paisley Park in the Stayers. Quotes from Willie Mullins’ stable tour, however, suggest the Mares’ is almost certainly where she’ll end up.

She’ll be the Irish banker on Tuesday, and easily the most popular Cheltenham Festival day one tips. If you want to back Benie Des Dieux, then you’re better off waiting to see if she features in any Cheltenham free bet offers. You could get your hands on a tasty price boost!

Northern Trust Handicap Chase Tips

All three of the 0-145 handicaps – the Northern Trust, Kim Muir and Martin Pipe – have been dominated by horses at the top end of the weights. You can see more key trends in my stand-alone Northern Trust preview. The entire field in this novices’ chase will likely be separated by five or six pounds, at most, making it more like a Grade Three than a high-profile handicap.

As such, I’ll be looking for Graded horses who’ve snuck into this handicap at the top of the weights for both of my selections.  The first of my Cheltenham Festival tips will be HOLD THE NOTE. It’s easy to see why Mick Channon’s novice sits so prominently in the betting. Hold The Note may not have won over fences yet, but he was travelling well at Kempton before being terribly hampered, and only went down by a neck to a strong stayer in Two For Gold over three-miles at Warwick. Channon and owner, Tim Radford won this handicap with Mister Whitaker two years ago, and they have a very good chance of celebrating another winner in 2020.

I’m going to look a little further down the second of my Northern Trust tips, and one I think has been particularly overpriced KNIGHT IN DUBAI, who can be found at 20/1 with William Hill. Harry Skelton rides the stable’s first string, Beakstown, but Connor Shoemark gets on really well with this seven-year-old. Shoemark was in the saddle as Knight In Dubai won his first two starts over fences in good style during the autumn. He was then comfortably beaten by Sam Brown in the Grade Two Altcar Novices’ Chase, where the winner clearly relished the testing ground conditions. Knight In Dubai has run twice at the Festival before and has looked a much more adpet jumper of a fence than he was over hurdles. He’s a very appeal each-way Cheltenham Festival day one tip.

National Hunt Chase Tips

For the second year in a row, Champagne Classic was ruled out of a tilt at the National Hunt through injury. I was devastated when Gordon Elliott broke the news, as the former Martin Pipe winner was my top Cheltenham Festival tip for the entire meeting.

When Champagne Classic came out, my thoughts immediately turned to Copperhead. However, after a wonderful performance in the Reynoldstown at Ascot, Joe Tizzard confirmed Copperhead would almost certainly be rewarded with a run in the RSA Chase. Despite top amateur, Jamie Codd ringing the Tizzards to say he would be available to ride this talented chaser and come through in the Cheltenham Festival day one tips.

Although he holds the current betting in a stranglehold, I’m keen to take Carefully Selected on. He’s managed to win three times over fences, despite jumping poorly on all three occasions. Carefully Selected could simply be too classy for this field, but I’m going to side against him with an each-way punt, and the one who holds most appeal is LORD DU MESNIL.

Having made his chasing debut rated just 115, Richard Hobson’s charge will carry a mark of 153 with him to Cheltenham racecourse. Victories in the Tommy Whittle and the Final Fling Handicaps helped Lord Du Mesnil land a hat-trick during the winter. Although he could only finish second in the Grand National Trial at Haydock, Hobson’s charge still registered another very high-quality performance.

The turnaround between Haydock and Cheltenham may only be 24-days, but Lord Du Mesnil won twice in the space of ten days over Christmas and clearly takes his racing well. Sam Waley-Cohen is a fantastic jockey booking for Richard Hobson, who’s stable have been in flying form over recent weeks. Lord Du Mesnil looks a fantastic each-way punt on day one.

If you’ve read my original National Hunt Chase tips, then you’ll also know I fancy ARDLETHEN to run far beyond his crazy price of 66/1 with Unibet.