Cheltmental’s Day 1 Through-The-Card Selections
It’s finally here!
The 2023 Cheltenham Festival kicks off on Tuesday with some fantastic races to look forward to:
- A wide open Supreme to kick things off
- A huge battle between Jonbon and El Fabiolo in the Arkle
- Can anyone stop Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle?
- Honeysuckle bids to sign off with victory in the Mares’ Hurdle
- Gaillard Du Mesnil one of the ‘bankers’ of the Festival in the National Hunt Chase?
Racing expert Dave Young (A.K.A. Cheltmental) gives his through-the-card picks for the opening day of the Festival.
1:30 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
A competitive renewal with holes to pick in plenty if we’re being honest. FACILE VEGA was an outstanding winner of the Bumper here last season. I appreciate he was well beaten on his last start and I’m not sold that tactics were really the issues, but he was confirmed lame after so that’s good enough for me to excuse the effort. Before this he comfortably handled stable-mate Il Etait Temps so I think he has his measure and is entitled to progress further clear given the latter is a second season novice. Marine Nationale has to overcome a significant layoff but this was by design so shouldn’t temper enthusiasm although I think the depth of his form is questionable.
DARK RAVEN might be Willie Mullins 4th string according to the market but I was in love with this horse in bumpers 2 seasons ago and he’s a horse who could improve a ton from his last run plus he’s already achieved an Official Rating of 145 so he looks overpriced.
Selection – FACILE VEGA
Lively Outsider – DARK RAVEN
Cheltmental's Supreme Novices' Hurdle Tip1:30 pm Tuesday March 14
2:10 Arkle Novices’ Chase
The betting would suggest this is a match up between El Fabiolo & JONBON and that may just be the case, however there’s not a lot to split the pair. El Fabiolo probably doesn’t jump as well as Jonbon and hasn’t been around this track but his win at The Dublin Racing Festival would be the pick of the 2m Novice Chase form this season. Jonbon has jumped well and answered every question asked of him this term. He was well beaten in the Supreme but has course form and was always likely to make into a better horse over fences so would get the slight nod. Dysart Dynamo is third in and has jumped much better over the larger obstacles but he was a little unruly in the Supreme 12 months ago which is a temperament that typically doesn’t disappear just for a change in obstacles.
There are 9 runners though so we’re getting first 3 for EW money so I’m going to put up a tentative vote for HOLLOW GAMES trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell. He has a good bit to find on figures to land this race and he bombed out at Christmas when well behind Saint Roi, however I don’t believe that can have been his true running and he’s been kept fresh since plus comes here off the back of a wind op. He stays strongly but he did show a turn of foot on his chasing debut so he’s one at a big price who might just sneak into the frame
Selection – JONBON
Lively Outsider – HOLLOW GAMES
Cheltmental's Arkle Tip2:10 pm Tuesday March 14
14:50 – Ultima Handicap Chase
Really good looking race this one and plenty have cases that can be made for them but I’ve long been a fan of OSCAR ELITE and I think this has been the plan since his 3rd in the race 12 months ago. He did bleed that day, but he’s just 1lb higher now and comes here off the back of a decent win in The Reynoldstown. He’s one I’d be fairly keen on but given the depth of this race and his known issues I’d want to throw at least one more dart at this.
HAPPYGOLUCKY is 5lbs higher than two seasons ago when he was a beaten favourite in this race. He sports Cheek-Pieces for the first time here and he ran a very good race after a significant lay off at the beginning of this season which demonstrated that the ability is still there. He’s going to have to go against a few trends, but I think at the prices he’s worth taking a chance on. His last run can be ignored to an extent because it was over the complete wrong trip and was likely just a piece of work with this race in mind.
Selection – OSCAR ELITE
Lively Outsider – HAPPYGOLUCKY
Cheltmental's Ultima Tip2:50 pm Tuesday March 14
15:30 – Champion Hurdle
We could be witnessing the greatest jumps horse of a generation or better yet, of all time so CONSTITUTION HILL is rightly priced as a long odds-on favourite. There’s 28 races across the week and 7 just here on day 1 so my advice would be to take advantage of any offers available to boost his price, but also to sit this one out and just enjoy the spectacle.
Selection – CONSTITUTION HILL
Cheltmental's Champion Hurdle Tip3:30 pm Tuesday March 14
- Bookmaker Odds Betting Tip
- 1/3 CONSTITUTION HILL
16:10 – Mares’ Hurdle
This could be one of the races of the week and I’m really excited to see how it unfolds. Honeysuckle will be retired after this race so I’m sure she’ll be popular but I’m against her now she’s on the decline. Epatante is a mare I think wants this trip but it’s a deep enough race and Cheltenham will be a real stamina test to her. Brandy Love and Love Envoi have their own cases to be made but they have to prove themselves at this level whereas MARIE’S ROCK has been here and done it and I think she’ll retain her crown.
ECHOES IN RAIN is a mare who might just be stretched over this trip and in this depth of race but she’s as good as most of these on her best effort so I’m willing to take a chance she can run well at a price and provide some cover.
Selection – MARIE’S ROCK
Lively Outsider – ECHOES IN RAIN
Cheltmental's Mares' Hurdle Tip4:10 pm Tuesday March 14
16:50 – Boodles Handicap Hurdle
Tricky enough race every year and this season looks no easier but I do think that TEKAO is much better than the mark the British handicapper has given him (135) and for me he’s the right favourite and most likely winner.
Perseus Way makes the shortlist because he looked like he might make into a Triumph hurdle horse however the yard were quick to play down just how good he might be after winning The Chatteris Fen Juvenile where I thought he looked alright. Was beaten after in the Adonis at Kempton but ran well and took a 7lb hike in the weights so that might have scorned his chance in here. JAZZY MATTY finished in front of Tekao on his stable debut and is 10lbs lower in the weights now so is of automatic interest at the prices.
Selection – TEKAO
Lively Outsider – JAZZY MATTY
Cheltmental's Boodles Tip4:50 pm Tuesday March 14
17:30 – National Hunt Chase
GAILLARD DU MESNIL is a class above this field and he will take some stopping, and that stopping may have to be his own doing but I can’t advise against him because he is a stand out contender. MINELLA CROONER is a horse I have a huge soft spot for and I think he’s much better than he’s shown to date, although I do question if he’ll ever really try his hardest. That said, I think should the favourite falter he can take advantage because for me he’s best of the rest