Cheltenham Festival – Day 1

It’s finally here. The roar will be heard across the Cotswolds when they jump for the Supreme at 1.30pm and the Cheltenham Festival 2022 will begin. Some of the tedious talk of targets, NAPs and lays of the meeting that litter the Twitter timeline will be forgotten as the horses themselves do the talking on the track and we can just enjoy some of the best equine stars doing what they do best.

Taking a holistic view of the meeting it looks like it will be extremely tough for the British contingent this week. Surprise Package hacking up in the Imperial Cup on Saturday really highlighted the fact that the ‘home team’ are miles behind their Irish counterparts. They don’t have a great record in the Ultima though…

We kick off with an excellent looking renewal of the Supreme. It is one of my favourite races of the entire week with some of the best novice hurdlers facing off. Even though it is over the minimum trip they often go a good clip which is why it is said that stayers win the race and this year should be no different as every horse in the field likes to get on with it. Constitution Hill is a very short price in my opinion. I can see him drifting on Tuesday morning. I get the impression Henderson prefers his chances over those of Jonbon but I prefer the latter over him as he has shown he can find off the bridle and the form has more substance. Constitution Hill may well win but he isn’t for me. I am hoping Dysart Dynamo can get us off to a winning start. He’s looked mightily impressive so far winning with ease, and I guess the comments I made about Constitution Hill above may apply but it may be telling that they have decided to go for the Ballymore with Sir Gerhard instead of taking on Dysart Dynamo here. Both Mullins and Henderson have a tremendous record in this race and they look to hold the aces here, as well as over half the entries!!

 

The Arkle also has a horse in it I think is far too short in Edwardstone. He’s been beating up the British contingent this season and done nothing wrong but I just can’t have him at the prices at all here, plus he is 8 years old now. You’d think the Irish will have a few better ones. For starters Coeur Sublime who was the highest rated hurdler in this field. This is chasing of course and he has been beaten twice by the injured Ferny Hollow before hacking up in a weak race last time at big odds on. I do feel that the Grand Annual might have been the plan all season but these plans changed when Ferny Hollow was injured and opened up the Arkle market. It was a late choice to change but telling they came here when you’d think he would still have a good chance in the handicap. I think he’s well over priced here. I can’t let Blue Lord go unbacked either though. He’s been exemplary this season over fences culminating in a win in the Irish Arkle where he narrowly beat Riviere D’etel who reopposes here although he has a few extra pounds in his favour here and this will be no easy task for a 5 year old mare with lots of pace on again.

 

As mentioned above the Irish don’t tend to have a great record in the Ultima, but they don’t often target it. I’m afraid that isn’t the case this year and I think they hold all the aces. The main bet in the race is Floueur who I actually backed last year in the Martin Pipe and he ran a nice race to be placed. He was stepped up markedly in trip past time to 3m 4f in heavy ground and ran a very respectable 3rd behind Death Duty and cam after a close win at Fairyhouse in a good beginner chase under this rider. 3m should suit him and I really like his chances. The other one worth a punt is Discordantly who won last weekend to get a penalty and ensure his participation. He was sent off at 10/1 in the race last year and finished 6th but couldn’t really land a blow but I think that experience will count for a lot and the cheekpieces he wore last time to win are retained. He’s too big a price.

 

Then we have Honeysuckle and the Champion Hurdle. She’ll be very hard to beat but at the prices I don’t want to get stuck in. It will be some training performance even from Mullins to get Appreciate It to win here after not running this season but he has done it before (twice I think). You’re taking a chance though, and he’s too short considering. Epitante is still only 8 and has done nothing wrong this season and although it is hard to see her reversing form from last year she is a decent price and can see the each-way appeal. The one I like in the without Honeysuckle market is Tommy’s Oscar who is tough as they come and has had a great season winning a Grade 2 last time out. He’s got a bit to find on ratings here but I think he might be ridden to pick up the pieces with Appreciate It and Teahupoo maybe taking each other on it might benefit him and I can see him staying on up the hill past beaten horses. It would be a great story for him to go close for a smaller stable but he’s a good horse in his own right and although this is a dramatic step up he’s worthy of his place and the way it is ran might be ideal.

 

The Mares’ Hurdle is up next and Tellmesomethinggirl is another favourite I want to take on and that is with Stormy Ireland. She’s been back and forth from Mullins to Nicholls but since she returned to Closutton she has done great including wins in the Irish Mares Champion Hurdle. She was disappointing in the Hattons Grace but got right back on track at Cheltenham in the Relkeel making all as she usually does. The slight concern is Western Victory has gone off on a mad gallop before, and Heaven Help Us likes to get on with it but I think he class can shine through here in a weaker race then she’s been running in and she is quite overpriced in my opinion.

 

The Fred Winter is a race that has frustrated me over the years. I’ve backed plenty of value losers though… Gaelic Warrior has been all the rage on the run up to the Festival but he is a ridiculously short price. He may well hack up but in a competitive race like this, and one Mullins has never actually won, I think you need to be mad to be taking the 9/4. My main bet will be on the ex Aiden O’Brien horse HMS Seahorse for Paul Nolan who has an excellent £33.31 level stakes profit at Cheltenham over the years. He was a maiden on the flat but ran well in defeat and was rated 86 and get in here off 128 for his hurdles mark. He won nicely last time staying on really strongly and his two previous hurdles runs were good narrowly going down to The Tide Turns off level weights and he is getting 9lbs off him here but is double the price. The one at a huge price worth chancing for Elliot is Iberique Du Seuil who has ran consistently in his four runs to date and his only win was when O’Regan was on board. This strong pace I think will suit him and he’s one I think will outrun his odds for a trainer that targets the race but doesn’t always win with the one the market expects.

 

One race that has been kind to me over the years is the National Hunt Chase and although there is a slightly disappointing field in terms of numbers there a plenty of class horses on show. I really, really fancy Run Wild Fred here. He’s experienced, stays the trip and is the highest rated in the field with Jamie Codd on board. There isn’t much not to like. Stattler has been fancied but he’s not for me. Vanillier has the Cheltenham for but hasn’t convinced me over fences. This smaller field and a return to Cheltenham may assist but I’m hoping for a great end to the day courtesy of Gigginstown.

 

Summary & Advised Prices

1.30 – Dysart Dynamo 5/2 4pts Win (PP/BF)

2.10 – Coeur Sublime 14/1 1pt EW (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4) & Blue Lord 1pt Win 4/1 (bet365)

2.50 – Floueur 8/1 2pts EW & Discordantly 25/1 0.75pts EW (both Will Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

3.30 – Tommy’s Oscar w/o Honeysuckle 16/1 1pt EW (bet365 1/5 1,2,3)

4.10 – Stormy Ireland 11/2 2pts Win (bet365)

4.50 – HMS Seahorse 12/1 2pts EW & Iberique Du Seuil 40/1 0.5pts EW (both bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

5.30 – Run Wild Fred 2/1 5pts Win

Author: Eva Gray