Sportsmail provides all the tips ahead of the opening day of Cheltenham Festival with selections and dangers in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, Arkle Chase, Ultima Chase, Champion Hurdle, Mares’ Hurdle, Boodles Handicap Hurdle and the National Hunt Chase.
Sportsmail provides all the tips ahead of the opening day of Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday
1.20 Appreciate It
3.05 E patante
4.50 Escaria Ten (nap)
1.20 Appreciate It
2.30 Aye Right (nap)
3.05 Honeysuckle (nb)
4.15 Homme Public
4.50 Snow Leopardess
Northerner – 2.30 Vintage Clouds (nap)
1.20 Supreme Novices Hurdle
Willie Mullins has employed the Grade One Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown as a potent stepping-stone to this race in the past decade and this year’s winner APPRECIATE IT could be the fourth horse to complete the double in nine years.
The selection follows in the hoofprints of Klassical Dream, Vautour and Champagne Fever and, although he is prohibitively priced on Tuesday, the likes of Ballyadam, Blue Lord and Irascible have all finished well adrift of him this season.
He fought off a number of challengers at Leopardstown and has proved a very strong stayer at two miles this term.
Tolworth winner Metier will relish the recent rain, while Soaring Glory could well improve again with his Betfair Hurdle form starting to work out.
Selection: APPRECIATE IT
Appreciate It (pictured) is Sportsmail’s selection for Tuesday’s 1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle
1.55 Arkle Chase
The absence of Energumene has robbed this race of some glamour and has made the task easier for SHISHKIN.
Trainer Nicky Henderson was this week dealt a late blow when Altior was ruled out of Wednesday’s two-mile feature, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, so he will be hoping the long-term ante-post favourite can fill the void left by his stablemate’s absence.
Shishkin is viewed as the natural successor to an increasingly-fragile Altior, but the presence of the front-running Allmankind could ensure he has to work hard for victory.
Franco De Port represents the Energumene form from Leopardstown and may pick up some pieces if the pace up front is too frenetic.
Danger: FRANCO DE PORT
2.30 Ultima Chase
Lightly-raced chasers and novices have held the upper hand in this event in recent season and HAPPYGOLUCKY appears to boast strong claims even if his morning price is little to enthuse about.
Connections have been patient with the seven-year-old, keeping him fresh since the middle of December following a career-best victory in a novice chase on the New Course and his mark of 147 may not prevent him overturning a collection of largely exposed rivals.
One For The Team is a similar type, albeit he doesn’t boast Cheltenham form, while Aye Right has performed with great credit all season and his form in races like the Ladbrokes Trophy behind Cloth Cap reads very well.
Danger: ONE FOR THE TEAM
3.05 Champion Hurdle
A mouth-watering clash between EPATANTE and the unbeaten Honeysuckle could set alight this year’s festival, although fans of Goshen will insist this is far from a twohorse duel.
The presence of last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle-second Abacadabras and Sharjah, runner-up in this event 12 months ago, ensures the race is one of the stronger recent renewals and more is required of Epatante who was last seen disappointing in the Christmas Hurdle.
A physical issue was offered forward as an excuse for that lacklustre defeat at the hands of Silver Streak, third in this event two seasons ago, and it might be unwise to read too much into that reverse.
Honeysuckle and jockey Rachael Blackmore are a favourite in the 3.05 Champion Hurdle
A return to last year’s level when she sprinted clear of Sharjah after the final hurdle may well be good enough to ensure her place in the history books and connections believe she is a stronger, more complete hurdler this year.
The weekend’s rain will certainly play to the strengths of both Honeysuckle and Goshen who perhaps lack the latent speed of Epatante. Both will be keen to make this a test and draw the sting out of the selection and Honeysuckle proved in the Irish Champion with a career-best display that she is extremely comfortable dropping back to two miles.
3.40 Mares’ Hurdle
Some feel that CONCERTISTA wouldn’t be out of place in a Champion Hurdle so, with the memory of her 12-length demolition at this meeting last year fresh in the mind, she gains the nod at the expense of Roksana who runs here instead of the Stayers’ Hurdle.
The selection has warmed up for this event with two cosy defeats of the talented Minella Melody and she may just have too much speed for the admirable
Roksana who herself has run to a high level this season behind the likes of Paisley Park.
Last year’s Coral Cup winner Dame De Compagnie renews rivalry with runner-up Black Tears and the latter could be some value to gain revenge.
4.15 Boodles Handicap Hurdle
Saint Sam and BUSSELTON represent the Grade 1 form of the Spring Juvenile Hurdle (won by Quilixios) and it will be fascinating to see how both fare with headgear employed for the first time.
The former was very keen at Leopardstown when racing prominently and will need to settle better in the hood so Busselton is narrowly preferred as he was also runner-up to Triumph Hurdle favourite Zanahiyr (Saint Sam 4th) on his Irish debut and represents a stable which landed this race two years ago.
Others to consider include Houx Gris who has been a big mover in the markets for a stable that do well in this race and Riviere D’etel who looks attractively handicapped.
Danger: SAINT SAM
Saint Sam (centre) is Sportsmail’s danger pick for the 4.15 Boodles Handicap Hurdle race
4.50 National Hunt Chase
Galvin was installed as ante-post favourite for this event back in October when running away with a novice chase on this track.
He had already proved his suitability for Cheltenham’s Old Course with a fine second in the novices’ handicap chase and could be the one to beat if the late stable switch hasn’t destabilised him.
However, he is short enough in the market for an open race so it may be worth taking a chance with ESCARIA TEN who looks tailor-made for this race judged on strong staying displays at Thurles and Naas.
Chasing experience has been a vital component for winners of this race in past renewals so Next Destination may prove vulnerable arriving here on the back of two small-field chase successes.
Selection: ESCARIA TEN (nap)
Some solid looking favourites look hard to oppose but if Epatante can recreate last year’s winning form she can retain her Champion Hurdle crown.
When on song she is a slick hurdler with a devastating turn of foot which should see off arch-rival Honeysuckle.
Honeysuckle won the Grade One Mares’ Hurdle at this meeting last year, and has run up an impressive winning sequence since.
She was an easy winner of the Irish Champion Hurdle last month, form good enough to beat chief rivals Epatante and Goshen.
1.20 – Appreciate It
1.55 – Shiskin
2.30 – Vintage Clouds (ew)
3.05 – EPATANTE (nap)
3.40 – Concertista
4.15 – Houx Gris
4.50 – Escaria Ten
1.20 – Appreciate It
1.55 – Shiskin
2.30 – Alnadam
3.05 – HONEYSUCKLE (nap)
3.40 – Concertista
4.15 – Cabot Cliffs
4.50 – Galvin