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After all the build up, the full 6 week treatment from all the pundits & racing Television folk it has finally arrived! The Cheltenham Festival, the greatest 4 days of National Hunt racing at Prestbury Park…
With 4 Grade 1 races, a pair of Grade 3 contests with a Grade 2 Chase thrown in to the mix for good measure, Day 1 looks like it has the making of a stunning days racing for the crowd to enjoy & we cannot wait for the famous Cheltenham Roar when the Starter drops his flag at around 1.30pm to signal the start of the Grade 1 Supreme Novice Hurdle.
We will be blogging on ALL 4 days, with ALL 4 of us on duty, despite Chris being at Prestbury Park for the first 2 days, no doubt enjoying the hospitality!
So lets kick this racing extravaganza off….
Charlie – 1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle
Selection – Constitution Hill -Has had 3 starts so far beginning with a head 2nd to Anyharminasking at Tipperary on the 24th April last year. Was then sent to Nicky Henderson and made debut at Sandown on the 4th December and won, beating Might I by 14 lengths. Was sent back to Sandown on the 8th January and won again, beating Jetoile by 12 lengths. Although Nicky Henderson has Johnbon in this race and Willie Mullins has Dysart Dynamo, my preference is for Constitution Hill as the manner in which he won those 2 races at Sandown caught my eye and although is relatively inexperienced in comparison to Johnbon and Dysart Dynamo, he has less miles on the clock and that may help his chances against the 2 main rivals.
2.10 Sporting Life Arkle Novices Chase
Selection – Blue Lord – Winner of last 3 races including beating Riviere D’etel last time out at Leopardstown by 1/2 length. I mentioned both Blue Lord and Constitution Hill on the podcast as they are both out of the same sire Blue Bresil and are my Nap and Next best bet of the meeting.
2.10pm Sporting Life Arkle Novices Chase
A rather wide-open looking Arkle this year, with no clear and obvious odds-on chance like some renewals. Blue Lord is my pick here, he boasts a 100% record over fences and his jumping won him the Irish Arkle at the DRF last time out. He was also one of the best over timber of all his rivals today and would have been placed at last years Festival, but for a heavy fall. I’m hoping Blue Lord can add to Willie Mullins record of 4 winners from the past 7 running’s of the race.
5.30pm Ukraine Appeal National Hunt Challenge Cup
Not an original choice here, but Run Wild Fred has long been on my shortlist for the closing race on Day 1. A second-season novice, Run Wild Fred has put in some excellent effort in defeat, including over this roughly this trip in this Irish Grand National last season. Runner-up again last time out at the highest level means he arrives here as top rated on official ratings. He meets plenty of trends today including Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd boasting several recent wins in this race.
2:10 – Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy (G1)
Selection: Riverie D’Etel (Nap)
The ultimate test for the two-mile novice chasers as a field of 11 battle for Arkle glory. Five of the last seven renewals have gone to Ireland and I believe Riverie D’Etel has the toolkit to deliver the goods for the Elliott stable. The 5yo mare has been a bit of a revelation this season over fences with three wins from five races. Her two defeats this season have come against Ferny Hollow and Blue Lord, that is top class form. Last time out at Leopardstown a bad blunder at the last fence cost her victory in the Irish Arkle where she just failed narrowly to get back up to beat Blue Lord. I am confident she can turn that form around. Good to soft ground is ideal for Riverie D’Etel and in receipt of 7lbs with the mares allowance she certainly ticks a lot of boxes. She would relish a battle up the hill. My nap of the day.
4:50 – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (G3)
Selection: Too Friendly (Each way)
There are not many more tricky puzzles to solve this week as a full field of 22 four-year-olds go to post for the old Fred Winter. At a big price (22/1 at the time of writing) Too Friendly has some smart form from a seven length fourth in a Doncaster Grade 2. The winner of that race was the unbeaten Knight Salute while Grade 1 winner Porticello was second. You can perhaps see why I give Dan Skelton’s charge a squeak today. Too Friendly hasn’t raced since that December day up at Doncaster and has had a wind operation in-between this and Cheltenham, hopefully that has sorted his wind out. This horse likes to be held up and come with a late charge, so a good gallop which they usually go in this race would be ideal. He will need some luck of course but I think off 10st 11lbs Too Friendly is well handicapped and will be primed for this. Shop around as some bookies are offering up to seven places.
2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase – Grade 3 – 5yo+ – 3m 1f…
Tea Clipper – Stowaway X A Plus Ma Puce 7yo gelding.
A novice chaser, who landed a 2m 3f Chepstow Listed Chase on seasonal return on October 9th 2021, beating Fidelio Vallis by 3 lengths. He travelled to Newbury on November 26th, when running in a 2m 4f Grade 2 Novice Chase, finishing 2nd of 4 runners, 30 lengths behind winner, Nassalam before his final start of 2021, which was in the 3m Kauto Star Chase at Kempton on Boxing day. He finished a tailed off 4th of 4 runners, some 42 lengths behind winner, Bravemansgame. The winner, runner up ( Ahoy Senor) & 3rd (Kiltealy Briggs) have all won since. He has not been on the race course since that day & has a wind operation. He steps up in trip again, with his handicap mark being eased from 147 to 145. He has festival experience, having finished 3rd in last years Coral Cup. Wears 1st time Cheek Pieces & carries 10s 7lb. Trainer ( Tom Lacy ) has a 40% Strike rate ( 6/15) last 14 days with Jockey ( Stan Sheppard ) also having a 42% SR ( 8/19 ) in the last 14 days….. ( My NH AOLR Horse to follow 2021/22)
DO NOT DISMISS last years WINNER –
Vintage Clouds – Cloudings X Rare Vinatge 12yo gelding.
His form in this race is brilliant, he has ran 5 times, placing twice before winning last season. He carried 10s 11Lbs to victory by 5 & 1/2 lengths. Like last year, he has had a wind operation & this is he 2nd run after, he was runner up on his last start. He retains his Cheek Pieces, carries 10s 6Lbs this year & although he won from a mark of 143, has won 3 times from same mark, today he runs from 144 – Extra Places!
4.10 Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 1 – 4yo Plus – 2m 4f…
Martello Sky – Martaline X Kentucky Sky 6yo Mare.
6 wins from 8 career hurdle runs, including 2 from 2 over C&D, although she was soundly beaten by Favourite, Telmesomethinggirl in the Dawn Run last year by 14 & 1/2 lengths. I believe she has improved a lot since that day & is 3 wins from 4 starts this season & deserves her chance today.
A C&D win at the December meeting in a Class 2 handicap hurdle by a neck from Indefatigable before a 1 & 3/4 length win LTO on January 8th in a Sandown Listed race from the recently retired, Anythingforlove.
Each Way – Extra Places!
That’s everything for you on Day 1 of our 4 day coverage, thanks for popping by & we hope to see you for Day 2.
All the Best – The Arseonlineracing Team