It’s Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival and all eyes will be on the unbeaten superstar mare Honeysuckle who bids to follow up her success in last season’s feature race.
13.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
- 18 of the last 19 Won 50%+ of hurdle starts
- 17 of the last 19 winners were aged 5 or 6 (Last year’s winner Appreciate won as 7-year-old)
- 9 of the last 10 winners have all won a graded Novice Hurdle before and a winner of 2 or more hurdle races
- 9 of the last 10 had won on a left-handed track
Deloite/Chanelle Pharma Hurdle remains a strong trial again with 2021 winner Appreciate It, Ballyadam (2nd) filling the same places at Cheltenham. Sir Gerhard this year’s winner.
The key trial this year however looks to be the Moscow Flyer Hurdle in which Dysart Dynamo was a convincing winner.
Willie Mullins normally throws plenty of darts but has won 5 of the last 9 renewals, all ridden by the number 1 stable jockey. This side of the Irish sea and Nicky Henderson has won 2 of the last 6.
Despite the small field this looks a high-class renewal at this stage with the front 3 in the betting all defending unbeaten records under rules.
Dysart Dynamo heads the Irish challenge for the Willie Mullins team with the keen going sort looking better suited to the shorter trip at this stage of his career.
He looked high class when extending his unbeaten run to 4 in Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown and is open to plenty of potential still, he looks the one they all have to beat.
Second in last season’s bumper stable mate Kilcruit has taken time to adapt to hurdles with 2 below par efforts before breaking his maiden tag last time when a wide distance winner at Punchestown.
That form might not amount to much but we know he has the back class for this level if putting it all together on the big day.
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The Gordon Elliot team are represented by Mighty Potter. He’s not been seen since winning the Grade 1 novice hurdle at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.
He didn’t jump with the most fluency that day or have the best of trip but still managed to overcome this to beat his stable mate Three Stripe Life. The form of the latter suggests he needs to take another step forward to beat a couple of the leading contenders and might be a better horse in time over further.
Nicky Henderson spearheads the English challenge in the shape of Constitution Hill and Jonbon. The former has looked all class in his 2 starts this season including when a comfortable 12 length winner of the Tolworth hurdle.
He looks a high-class prospect but this is a totally different test to the left-handed track of Sandown on heavy winter going and at the current prices I’d like to have seen him more proven under varied conditions.
Stablemate Jonbon visually might not have been as impressive as those ahead of him in the market but he comes across as the type who will always be better as he faces tougher opposition.
Also, unlike those at the head of the market he’s proven going left-handed like 9 of the 10 last winners of the race. He will appreciate any drying of the ground and is fancied to follow his brother Douvan in winning here.
Selection – Jonbon
14.10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase
- A victory last time out, last 12 winners.
- Won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase, 16 of the last 22.
- Raced at Cheltenham in the past, 14 of the last 17 winners had won (or been placed)
- 12 of last 14 already rated 151+
- Relevant to this year last 11 winners all aged 6 or 7
Arkle Novice Chase has been the key trial for the Irish runners in the field, 2022 Winner Blue Lord
- Nicky Henderson 7 victories and numerous place efforts to his name
- Willie Mullins Won 4 of the last 7
- Between them winning 8 of the last 10
Edwardstone heads the market and has confirmed himself to be the best of the English Novice Chasers this season being unbeaten in his 4 completed finishes this season including victories Grade 1 Henry VIII at Sandown in December and Grade 2s at Kempton and Warwick.
Being a second season, he has plenty of experience over the larger obstacles. Not beaten far in last seasons County hurdle so we know he handles the demands of the Festival and there looks no obvious reason why he should not run his race, whether that will be quite good enough will be the question and he is pretty tight in the market for a horse who we may have seen the best of already.
The key race when assessing the Irish challenge looks to the Irish version of this race at the Dublin Racing Festival. Haut En Couleurs fell early on that day which certainly isn’t the idle prep for this.
Prior he was a comfortable winner on chase debut though and has a couple of high-class hurdle runs to his name including when finishing 3rd in the Triumph hurdle last season.
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The winner that day was Blue Lord who maintained his unbeaten record over the larger obstacles, he capitalised on a mistake at the last by Riviere D’etel before the latter ran on strongly to just be denied giving the impression that the mares mistake at the last ultimately cost her victory.
It’s hard to split the pair once again here with maybe slight preference for the Gordon Elliot runner who could just be better suited to the likely stronger pace and stiff finish.
Saint Sam could only finish third that day after trying to make all of the running he looked likely to fade out of things coming to the last fence but in the end stuck to his task well to only be beaten just under 4 lengths.
That was just his second start over the larger obstacles and he left the impression there could be more to come. He`s another who has previous festival form after a second-place finish in last season’s Boodles.
Yes, more fluency is required over his jumps but there is a good chance he can get into a nice rhythm out in front and could have plenty hard at it coming down the hill.
Of those at bigger prices Coeur Sublime makes most appeal. He was good enough over hurdles to finish second in a Triumph hurdle and is likely to be well suited by conditions.
He chased home Ferny Hollow on his first 2 starts before making light work of things at Gowran last time out and looks to be getting the hang of things over fences.
Selection Saint Sam – Coeur Sublime
14.50 Ultima Handicap Chase
- Previously ran at the Cheltenham Festival 10 of the last 12
- Wearing headgear 9 of the last 10 (Including last season’s 28/1 winner Vintage Clouds from only runner in the line-up)
- Novice or second season over fences
- All of the last 12 winners finished Top 6 last time out
6 of the last 7 winners ran at Cheltenham that season
Normally a race for the English, last 10 trained in Britain. Nicky Henderson, David Pipe & Jonjo O`Neill have trained multiple winners
Gordon Elliot has a couple of leading hopes here in the shape of Floueur and Death Duty, personal preference is for the former who was a good third on last years Martin Pipe and looks to have his best days in front of him over the larger obstacles.
Does He Know has looked a progressive novice chaser, winning for a third time in 4 starts in testing 3m Ascot Grade 2 last month, a course and distance winner he ticks plenty of boxes but that’s represented in his price.
Tea Clipper finished third in last seasons Coral Cup and made a good start to his career over the larger obstacles when successful at Chepstow. His form has some what tailed off since but he’s handicapped to go well has potential over this trip and appeals as the type to go close if the recent wind op and headgear do the job.
Nigel Twiston Davies runs the progressive novice Fantastikas who ran well here 2 starts back and followed that up with victory at Lingfield over 3 mile in heavy conditions. This is a different type of test all together but he’s going the right way.
A winner here on New Year’s day, Full Back looks to have been slightly underestimated by the market and looks to offer some each way value. He has since run the solid yardstick Yala Enki close at Taunton last time out, giving the impression he is better suited to a more galloping course.
Frodon warrants a mention, the high-class front runner is some what of a fans favourite, it will be tough in a race of this nature off top weight but he and Bryony Frost come alive round here and he would be a popular winner.
Last season’s winner Vintage Clouds is now a 12-year-old and this remarkably will be the sixth time the Sue Smith runner runs in the race. He showed up okay after a wind op at Doncaster when last seen and off the same mark as last season there looks no reason why he can’t go well once again acknowledging at the same time his vulnerability to younger legs.
Selection Tea Clipper – Full Back
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15.30 Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
- A victory last time out, 9 of the last 11 also unbeaten that season
- Previous Grade 1 winner, rated 157+
- 12 or fewer runs over hurdles
- Mares currently 3 wins from the last 6
6 of the last 13 winners ran in the Christmas Hurdle Kempton, Epatante
Between them Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins have won 9 of the last 13 Champion hurdles
There is no other place to start than the unbeaten in 14 starts wonder mare Honeysuckle. She landed her third successive Irish Champion Hurdle last time out and holds most of the runners in the field on her recent efforts.
She is no doubt going to be hard to beat once more and will be an extremely popular winner for the Henry De Bromhead and Rachel Blackmore partnership.
Appreciate It was an impressive winner of last season’s Supreme and he looked a horse of great potential still. A chase campaign was put on hold and he looked a live contender for this year’s Champion Hurdle. The big issue for supporters though has been he has not been seen since that effort making it somewhat of leap of faith to be confident here.
That said he is one of only a couple in the line-up who’s not held by the favourite as it stands and the noise coming out of the Mullins camp seems to be very positive recently. His trainer is a master at bringing horses back in top form for the big day and he’s worth taking a chance on at the prices.
Teahupoo was successful in a grade 3 at Gowran last time. The Gordon Elliot runner was very impressive that day and is open to plenty of improvement still.
Epatante could only manage third last season behind Honeysuckle and despite winning both the Fighting Firth and Christmas hurdle this season there looks no obvious reason why she should reverse the form this time.
Adagio appeals most of the bigger price runners, second in last season’s Triumph hurdle, he has since gone close once more here at Cheltenham in the Greatwood hurdle. He was beaten by Goshen in the Kingwell last time so will need to step up on that but connections were always likely to be thinking about the big day here.
Selection – Appreciate It
16.10 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle)
- Market leaders worth following, Fav or 2nd Fav won on 11 of the 14 occasions
- Previously won over the distance, 13 of the last 14 winners had won over at least 2m4f
- Won or placed against the boys in a graded race,10 of the last 14 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2
No significant race so worth noting 12 of the 14 winners had won or placed in an open Graded Race
Willie Mullins, 9 victories from the 13 renewals of the race. Irish-trained mares dominate winning 12 of last 14
Likely favourite Tellmesomthinggrirl came out best of these on official ratings at Leopardstown over the festive period. She was a winner here in the Novice Mares hurdle and should go close once again.
Gordon Elliot looks to have a progressive mare under his care in the shape of Queens Brook. She finished a solid second behind the reopposing Burning Victory last time but whilst the latter should go well again it’s the Elliot trained runner who looks to be on the upward curve and has the potential to progress past her rival on this occasion.
Stormy Ireland won the Grade 2 Relkeel hurdle here on New Year’s Day and she’s a solid mare in her own right but lacks the potential of a couple of her rivals.
Mrs Milner was impressive in last season’s Pertemps, though she has not looked in that type of form in 2 starts this season and has to be right back to her best after a break.
Martello Sky is 3 from 4 this season including a victory here in December. She was beaten by Tellmesomthinggirl at last season’s festival but that was over a much shorter trip than ideal, doing all her best work at the finish. She has a bit to find but makes some each way appeal for the Lucy Wadham team.
Selection – Queens Brook
16.50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
- Last run not in a handicap and may have been against older horse
- No more than 3 runs over Hurdles, 10 of the last 17 winners had run just 3 times over hurdles before
- 13 of the last 17 winners were rated between 124-134,
- 7 of the last 10 winners all 25/1+
Ran in the Adonis at Kempton (2 winners in last 10) or Spring Juvenile at Leopardstown
Gordon Elliot (won 3 of the last 9) and Paul Nicholls have both won the race multiple times the latter particular strong with French breds. Willie Mullins yet to win the race.
The now Willie Mullins-trained Gaelic Warrior has been all the rage in recent weeks here and now looks like going off at short odds despite only have raced in France.
His form across the channel gives plenty of indication that he will prove much better than his current mark. That said he’s plenty short enough for a race where plenty in the line-up are likely to be well handicapped and it can’t be forgotten his trainer is yet to win the race.
The same can’t be said for Gordon Elliot, who looks to secure his fourth victory in the race with 5 runners in the line-up. Ebasari should prove better than a 131 horse in time and the first-time headgear heightens interest.
Britzaki is another sporting first time headgear but this time in the shape of blinkers. He was a bit disappointing last time up but he`s been freshened up since then and also has had a wind op in that period.
His form prior to that looks to hold some substance after following up a comfortable success on debut buy finishing 9 lengths behind leading Triumph fancy Fil Dor. He did all his best work at the finish that day and a large field strong run affair could just play to his strengths.
The other I want to have on my side is the Paul Nicholls debutant Bell Ex One. He has a nice enough profile for this race and has plenty of experience from his flat days.
He will need to step up on his victories at Listowel and Punchestown but connections have a good record in this race and are not one to be running on here for the day out.
Selection Britzka – Bell Ex One
17.30 Ukraine Appeal National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase
- Experience in a Graded Chase, 10 of the last 12 had contested such a race.
- 1st or 2nd place finish over 3 mile or more that season
- Last 9 winners rated 142+
- Aged 7 or 8, 11 of the last 16 winners
- Irish based jockeys ridden 11 of the last 12 winners
Ran at a previous Cheltenham Festival, 8 of the last 12 winners
Gordon Elliot has won 3 of the last 7 renewals
A smaller field than usual, however this still looks to have a competitive feel to it. Gordon Elliot yet again holds a strong hand in his bid to build upon his 3 recent successes in the race.
At first glance his main hope looks to be Run Wild Fred. The addition of headgear seems to have bought about considerable improvement and his second in a Grade 1 makes him the one to beat under the excellent Jamie Codd.
Things have not been so straight forward for stable Braeside after his solid run in a large field staying handicap at Leopardstown over Christmas.
That run suggested he could be the ideal type for this race but he followed that run by pulling up at Gowran next time and then things didn’t really go to plan at Navan in a grade 2 last time.
He needs to bounce back to his best but could be seen to better light over this type of trip and it’s interesting connections are happy for him to take his chance.
Stattler looks to have improved for the larger obstacle and the Willie Mullins trained runner has to be considered on the back of his grade 3 success at Naas.
He has further potential and despite not being proven in a large field handicap environment he might get away with it this time around in smaller than usual field size.
Vanillier was successful in last season’s Albert Bartlett but has not hit that type of form over the larger obstacles to date.
Pats Fancy looks the type who will appreciate this type of stamina test and is another to consider.
Selection – Braeside
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