Day-One Cheltenham Festival Analysis And Tips

The Cheltenham Festival is finally upon us, and the Champion Hurdle is the highlight of the opening day’s card, whilst there’s also grade-1 action in the Mares Hurdle. Meanwhile, the novice hurdlers battle it out in the 2-mile Supreme Hurdle, and the novice chasers try their luck in either the 2-mile Arkle or the 4-mile National Hunt Chase. There’s also 2 fiercely competitive handicaps to look forward to in the form of the Ultima Chase and the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Supreme Novice Hurdle 1.30


  • Ireland have won 6 of the last 10, England have won 4 of the last 10 renewals
  • 9 of the last 10 winners have been aged 5 or 6
  • Willie Mullins has trained 4 of the last 10 winners
  • Ruby Walsh has ridden 4 of the last 6 winners
  • Winners last ran 24 to 115 days before
  • SPs have ranged from 2/1 to 40/1


Willie Mullins gives punters plenty to think about by declaring 4 runners in the opening race of the festival, and there’s every chance he’ll get punters off to a winning start with one of them. Melon has been favourite for a few weeks now, and looks sure to go off favourite with Ruby Walsh confirmed to ride. Meanwhile, second jockey Paul Townend is aboard Bunk Off Early, whilst the other pair of Cilaos Emery and Crack Mome also have each-way possibilities. The home contingent is headed by the 2017 Betfair Hurdle winner Ballyandy, though he must prove that his win last time didn’t coincide with carrying a low-weight in a handicap. Other English hopes include the Nicky Henderson trained pair of River Wylde and Beyond Conceit. The former won impressively at Kempton last time out, whilst Beyond Conceit was a useful flat-performer who could be suited by a fast-run race on decent ground.

Win Bet: Melon @ 11/4 (Bet365)

Each-Way Value: Beyond Conceit @ 20/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 3 places


Arkle Chase 2.10


  • England have won 6 of the last 10, Ireland have 4 of the last 10 renewals
  • Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson have both trained 2 of the last 5 winners
  • Winners last ran 17-80 days previously
  • 7-year-olds have won 6 of the last 10, 6-year-olds have won 3 of the last 10 renewals
  • SPs range from 1/4 to 33/1


Altior hasn’t managed to scare away quite as many opponents as Douvan did last year, and 8 take him on. However, it’s hard to see him getting beaten as he’s looked imperious at times this season, including when accounting for the re-opposing Charbel, who had earlier beaten the decent pair of Top Notch Tonto and Le Prezien. If you don’t fancy emptying the wheelbarrow on Altior, then it’s a case of either finding one for the forecast, or backing one each-way that makes you a profit if he finishes in the frame. The horse that fits the bill on both counts is Royal Caviar, and Walsh and Mullins team-up with a horse who may well have won the Irish Arkle last time if he hadn’t of fallen. However, up until that fall, he had looked an assured jumper, and this big horse should take to Cheltenham.

Win Bet: Altior @ 1/4 (Bet365)

Each-Way Value: Royal Caviar @ 20/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 3 places


Ultima Handicap Chase 2.50


  • England have won all of the last 10 renewals
  • SPs ranged from 3/1 to 50/1
  • Jonjo O’Neill has trained 3 of the last 8 winners
  • Richie McLernon has ridden 2 of the last 5 winners
  • Winners have been aged 7 to 10, with four of them being 8-year-olds
  • Winners have carried between 10-0 and 11-7
  • Winners have been rated 129 to 148
  • Winners last ran 18 to 114 days previously


24 runners aren’t easy to whittle down, but six of them standout as being potentially well-handicapped. The first of those is perennial Cheltenham visitor Holywell, who’s record at the last four Cheltenham Festivals reads: winner of the Pertemps Final, winner of this race, fourth in the Gold Cup, and second in this race. Admittedly, he has run terribly all season but, having done that last season before finishing second, he is now 5lb lower and is weighted similarly to the last 3 winners. Meanwhile, The Druids Nephew is another previous winner of this race whose mark has slipped back to the one he off two years ago, and he should appreciate a return to decent ground. The others who make the shortlist are Ibis Du Rheu, who looks well-handicapped on 146 considering he won the Coral Cup off 139 last year. His stablemate Caid De Berlais also looks well-handicapped on 143, a mark he won the Betvictor Cup off in 2016, and he has a useful 5lb claimer on board. Henri Parry Morgan could also go close off a mark 8lb lower than the start of the season, and it’s worth remembering that he split Native River and Blaklion at Aintree last season. However, it’s Singlefarmpayment who has the most progressive profile having won here earlier in the season, and he was travelling ominously well when brought down at the course last time. This doesn’t look the type of race for a win-only bet, so it may pay to take Holywell and Henri Parry Morgan against the field.


Holywell Each-Way @ 11/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 5 places

Henri Parry Morgan Each-Way @ 10/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 5 places



Champion Hurdle 3.30


  • Ireland have won 6 of the last 10, England have won 4 of the last 10 renewals
  • Winners have been aged 5 to 9, with four 7-year-olds and three 6-years olds winning
  • Winners had run 24-78 days previously
  • SPs varied between 4/5 and 22/1
  • Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have teamed-up for victory 4-times


Yanworth was backed-off the boards to win last year’s Neptune Hurdle, but found Yorkhill too good. There were plenty of excuses for Alan King’s horse that day though, including the poor form of the stable and the fact he was ridden with far too much confidence. His form this season looks the best in the field and, considering it was achieved around tracks that wouldn’t have played to his strengths, he’s expected to improve again at Cheltenham where the galloping nature should suit him much more. He looks the best of the novices from last year, and is fancied to take care of Buveur D’air and Petit Mouchoir and, he may have more to fear from the likes of Brain Power and Moon Racer. Brain Power has really caught the eye when an easy winner of big-money handicaps this season, and will love the ground, whilst Moon Racer is the only runner in the field who can boast a win over Yanworth, be it in a bumper. I wouldn’t put anyone off a bet on Yanworth but, Moon Racer looks the each-way bet in the race for those who prefer to bet that way.

Win Bet: Yanworth @ 5/2 (Bet365)

Each-Way Value: Moon Racer @ 9/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 3 places


Mares Hurdle 4.10


  • Ireland have had 8 winners, England have had 1 winner
  • Willie Mullins has trained all 8 Irish Winners
  • Ruby Walsh has ridden 7 winners
  • Winners have been aged 5 to 10
  • SPs have ranged from 4/7 to 20/1
  • Winners ran between 27 and 320 days previously


The statistics and the formbook strongly suggest that this will be fought out by the 3 Irish horses at the head of the market, which are Limini, Vroum Vroum Mag and Apples Jade. All 3 of them have been favourite for the race at some point but, after her defeat of Apples Jade last time out, and the confirmation that Ruby Walsh rides her, Limini has been made favourite by the bookies. That will be enough for most punters to back her, but whether she deserves to be so much shorter in the betting than the other two is open to debate. She does look the obvious winner of the race on recent evidence but, Apples Jade also looks an each-way bet to nothing.


Limini Win @ 13/1 (Bet365)

Apples Jade Each-Way Value @ 9/2 (Bet365) ¼ odds 3 places


National Hunt Chase 4.50


  • England have won 7 of the last 10, Ireland have won 3 of the last 10 renewals
  • Gordon Elliott has trained 2 of the last 10 winners
  • Derek O’Connor has ridden 2 of the last 10 winners
  • Winners were aged 6 to 9
  • SPs ranged from 9/4 to 33/1
  • Winners last ran 18 to 96 days previously


Gordon Elliott saddles Tiger Roll in the hope that Cheltenham, decent ground and this 4-mile stamina test will bring out the best in his 2014 Triumph Hurdle winner. However, it’s the Derek O’Connor Edwulf who heads the ratings and the market, though it’s a little worrying that he’s failed to complete in 2 of his last 5 starts. Other interesting candidates include the Reynoldstown first and second Flintham and Bigbadjohn, with the former closely related to 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree, and the latter 4lb better off here. First-time blinkers also catch the eye for 2015 Albert Bartlett winner Martello Tower who looks to have had this as his major target all season, whilst last year’s Albert Bartlett third Champers On Ice looks sure to relish this step-up in trip after running over a trip short of his best last-time. However, in a race in which jockey-bookings are often significant, the booking of Sam Waley-Cohen for Beware The Bear looks a big pointer. Waley Cohen won this race in 2009, and has also won a Cheltenham Gold Cup on Long Run, and Nicky Henderson has said he thinks Beware The Bear looks like a future Grand National contender.


Win: Beware The Bear @ 8/1 (Bet365)

Each-Way Value: Martello Tower @ 12/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 4 places


Close Brother Novices’ Handicap Chase 5.30


  • England have won all 6 previous renewals
  • SPs have ranged from 13/2 to 16/1
  • Winners last ran 16 to 45 days previously
  • Winners have been rated 132 to 142
  • Winners have carried 11-4 to 12-0


Ireland’s best chance of success may be with the Henry De Bromhead trained Killeney Court but, as English trained horses have won all 6 previous renewals, it may be a wise move to side with them again here. Foxtail Hill owes his place at the head of the market to a bold front-running win in a better class handicap last time, but he had a light-weight on soft ground there, and may not find it easy to replicate that performance. The handicapper has certainly been kind to both Bun Doran and Itsafreebee, who were both handicapped out of this race until being dropped 5lb for below par runs last time. The former looks a horse of some potential, but it’s Itsafreebee who make most appeal considering he was third behind Yorkhill and Yanworth in last season’s Neptune Hurdle. The other horse that appeals is Double W’s, and trainer Malcolm Jefferson looks to have patiently waited for this race knowing that his charge will appreciate the going.


Itsafreebee Win @ 9/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 4 places

Double W’s Each-Way @ 14/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 4 places