We've got tips for every race on the opening day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
13:30 Cheltenham - Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle
CHANTRY HOUSE (best price 7-1) was the forgotten horse in this race for a long time. However, plenty of people have acknowledged his claims, which has caused the price to crash. There’s no hiding behind the fact the ground will be extremely testing on the opening day of the Festival. Rumours coming out of the Henderson yard hint they’d be keener on Chantry House in tricky conditions compared to Shishkin.
Chantry House has hardly been tested in his last four outings, and has valuable experience of winning at the track, plus won in a pretty decent sized field last time out. Two runs ago he beat Stolen Silver who has since won at Haydock, and has serious Festival hopes. The form from a previous Warwick run has also turned out pretty well. Chantry House should be there at the end.
With bookmakers offering crazy each-way places it’s definitely worth backing a couple in the opener. At the top of the market there’s a huge case to be made for Fiddlerontheroof, however the second one I’m siding with is EDWARDSTONE (best price 16-1 / 7 places). I personally believe Edwardstone has been completely ignored in this market. Alan King’s horse looked the likely winner in testing conditions at Haydock in January, but was caught late on by Stolen Silver. The times before that he’s beaten the promising Harry Senior, and Fiddlerontheroof. Edwardstone hasn’t won in the same style as Chantry House, Shishkin etc., but could be one to chase down the front-runners late on.
With William Hill offering seven places, it’s hard to believe seven other horses will fare better in these conditions.
14:10 Cheltenham - Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase
More than happy to take on Notebook in the second race of the day and I’ve opted with the ever reliable FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES (best price 9-2). Joseph O’Brien’s horse won convincingly twice earlier on in the season before finishing second to Notebook last time out at Leopardstown.
Notebook has the tendency to act up which isn’t a characteristic you want from a horse on the opening day of the Festival. There wasn’t a great deal between the two horses when Fakir finished second to Notebook, and the O’Brien horse still finished off his race pretty well. The five-year-old won’t have any concerns with the ground, and has vital Cheltenham experience.
14:50 Cheltenham - Ultima Handicap Chase
Despite the weight, I can’t see VINNDICATION (best price 7-1) finishing outside the top six in the Ultima. There will be plenty of tipsters/pundits giving Kim Bailey’s horse no chance.
However, the seven-year-old looked back to his best when winning in November, which was his first outing since wind surgery in November. This horse went off 11/8 favourite just over a year ago against the likes of Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation. He also finished fifth in the JLT last season.
I’m hoping that November outing was no fluke, and the wind operation has reinvented this classy horse. The ground isn’t ideal with the weight, but he has performed well on testing ground in the past.
CEPAGE (best price 18-1) has been slightly overlooked in this market and has very good claims at snatching at least a place. The eight-year-old will be up with the pace, a similar approach to the one was taken at this course back in January when Cepage narrowly beat Spiritofthegames. The majority of his runs this season suggest that the step up in trip should work. He shouldn’t have any problems with the forecast either.
15:30 Cheltenham - Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
I was very keen on Darver Star in this race a couple of weeks back but that was when the eight-year-old was a bet around the 20/1 mark. However the eight-year-old is now 12/1 with a couple of firms. I keep coming back to PENTLAND HILLS (best price 11-2), which is potentially foolish given the two runs this season.
Pentland Hills looked like he was going to win with ease last time out at Haydock but didn’t finish his race. The five-year-old has since had any wind issues tinkered with which has hopefully solved any problems. If he’s anything like the horse we saw last season then the 11/2 is a brilliant price.
16:10 Cheltenham - Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle
It’s very hard to see anything else other than a BENIE DES DIEUX (best price 4-6) win in the Mares’ Hurdle. Punters shouldn’t be worried about last season’s fall at all as the nine-year-old has shown no sign of it happening again. She was last seen absolutely destroying a field at Gowran Park in January. There are also no concerns with the cut in the ground.
If you were looking for a bet at a bit more value in the race, then Stormy Ireland at 5/1 in the without Benie Des Dieux market looks a cracking each-way option. You are essentially getting four places.
16:50 Cheltenham - Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase
There’s plenty of horses in this race that have a cracking chance, but I’ve whittled it down to two. The first is CHAMPAGNE COURT (best price 16-1) who was a little disappointing when appearing at Cheltenham last time out. However, he won back-to-back races on testing ground at the back end of 2019. Chambard ran in behind Champagne Court in November, and has since ran two decent second place finishes. He finished ahead of Imperial Aura, Indefatigable and Ballyandy in October who have all come on since. He finished an impressive fourth in the Martin Pipe last season.
TORPILLO (best price 18-1) is another who ran pretty poorly last time out, but appears to act much better on testing ground. The five-year-old finished three lengths ahead of Mister Fisher in Warwick In November and also put in a decent display finishing third behind Quel Destin. With six places on offer he has a cracking chance of making the frame.
17:30 Cheltenham - National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase
CAREFULLY SELECTED’s (best price 2-1) biggest danger is himself, there have been a few occasions where the eight-year-old has almost fallen. However, he hasn’t and has had the quality to win his last three races with ease. If he stays on his feet he wins, and he’s not fallen to date, so I’m happy to take the 15/8. The ground also won’t be an issue for the Mullins horse.
Win double: Benie Des Diuex & Carefully Selected @ 4/1
Each-way treble: Chantry House, Fakir D’oudairies & Pentland Hills @ 285/1
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