Are you ready for the Roar? It’s the first day of the Cheltenham Festival and we have selected a few runners who might go well on day one. We’ve also highlighted special offers from Paddy Power and Betfair for this year’s meeting.
1.30pm Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 2m ½f
Willie Mullins has won the Festival curtain-raiser three times in the last five years and a record five times overall. He will be hoping that Getabird can get him off to a Festival Flyer. Gordon Elliott’s classy ex-Flat performer MENGLI KHAN is looking like great value at 12/1 in a race where he meets Getabird on more favourable terms than the last time they met.
2.00pm Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase 2m
Although Footpad comfortably accounted for PETIT MOUCHOIR in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown last month there is no reason why the grey cannot reverse the form on this occasion. Ring rustiness can be attributed to Petit Mouchoir’s run in Dublin and Footpad is unlikely to steal the same march on the field again here.
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2.50pm Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase 3m 1f
Singlefarmpayment takes his chance in the Ultima Handicap Chase with connections hopeful the jumping issues that have plagued the horse since his fall in the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury in November will be firmly behind him. He does boast a good record at the venue given a clear round. DINGO DOLLAR has shown huge improvement this season since switching to the bigger obstacles and his form figures over fences read well. Alan King’s novice is certainly on the up.
3.30pm Unibet Champion Hurdle 2m ½f
BUVEUR D’AIR is the defending champion, taking full advantage of a relatively weak field last year to claim the prize. His wins this season show just what a tough nut he will be to crack here again. Wicklow Brave could be an interesting each-way outsider should he consent to jump off on terms this year.
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4.10 pm OLBG Mares’ Hurdle Race 2m 4f
The Mares’ Hurdle is likely to be a procession for last year’s victor APPLES JADE, who is no bigger than 8/13 at this stage. Benie Des Dieux appears to be the main danger to the hotpot favourite on paper. She made it three wins in as many starts over fences in the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Chase at Naas last time out. Warren Greatrex believes his La Bague Au Roi is more talented than Cole Harden and she could easily be in the shake up.
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4.50pm National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup 4m
The four-mile National Hunt Chase is on the agenda for smart novice Keeper Hill. The seven-year-old is a Grade Two winner over three miles, but he fell at Musselburgh last time out. Jury Duty, Dounikos, No Comment and Rathvinden head the market but it is the latter named that is of the greatest interest. Owned by Ronnie Bartlett, RATHVINDEN has yet to tackle such a long distance but he has won on all connections seem quietly confident he will see out the marathon trip.
5.30pm Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase 4m
Leading fancy De Plotting Shed was nominated by the BHA handicapping team as their highest-profile ‘headache horse’ in their pre-Cheltenham deliberations with the horse being well supported in the betting for this race. It is some time since Donald McCain had a Festival winner but the Trevor Hemmings owned TESTIFY could quite easily put him back on the board. Unbeaten in three runs over fences he is improving all time and 20/1 looks to be a more than generous price. Neil Mulholland’s Kalondra ran well in the Coral Cup here last year and has got course-and-distance form. He is worth a second look in the market.